European Union

In recent months, it’s been hard to pin down exactly what is happening in the 28 EU member states this summer. But in a report published last week BEREC, the Group of regulators responsible for delivering the Regulation, gave some clear direction.

  • Retail international mobile roaming surcharges will no longer apply in the EU 28 Member states from 15 June 2017.
  • MNOs can implement fair use policies to prevent the abuse of regulated roaming services.
  • MNOs can also retain surcharges if they are able to demonstrate to their Local Regulator that they cannot cover their costs of providing roaming.

The wholesale story

In addition, MNOs in the EU have guidelines about how they will work together at a wholesale level. BEREC has agreed on wholesale caps, which means the inter-operator tariffs the EU MNOs charge each other are controlled.

Wholesale caps for 1GB, which BEREC defines as 1000 MB, were agreed in February 2017 as follows:
€7.7 from June 15
€6 as of January 1, 2018
€4.5 in 2019
€3.5 in 2020
€3 in 2021
€2.5 in 2022

The wholesale caps will be reviewed in December 2019 and every 2 years thereafter.

In addition to the above, the structural measures to encourage competition have been preserved: MVNO wholesale roaming access implemented 1 July 2012 and local break-out (LBO), enabling a subscriber to use a local mobile broadband provider in a visited country and be billed directly. Also the transparency measures regarding data to prevent bill shock for end users roaming both inside and outside the EU are maintained.

And finally the decoupling obligation, which was brought in with REG III, i.e. separate selling of roaming services from domestic mobile services, has been withdrawn. MNOs across Europe can breathe a sigh of relief on that one, even if they already invested a lot to deliver it, in the case that it becomes popular.

So to sum up, what we expect from the Regulation is that Roaming prices will be at domestic levels. There will be no retail roaming surcharges, except when the fair use limit is surpassed. Yes, indeed. The famous Fair use Policy is here.

Fair use policy

If you are a customer of an EU MNO using a Roam Like at Home (RLAH) tariff. You will be able to use EU international mobile roaming services at domestic rates from 15 June 2017.

But… to prevent 'abusive' or 'anomalous' roaming behaviour, your MNO will set limits to the usage. For example, Roam Like at Home tariff plans allowing the unlimited use of data are more likely to be subject to organised reselling to persons not residing in the member state of the home MNO. Should users of these tariff plans abuse this while roaming, it could consequently lead to the withdrawal of unlimited data offers in the MNO's home member state, or restrictions to roaming altogether.

MNOs can establish fair usage based on the 'stable links' or residence that an end user has with the country of his home provider. Stable links take into consideration:

  • employment in MNO country full or part time
  • students
  • retired person
  • posted workers Subscribers can also be asked to provide proof of their residency in line with national customs, such as their billing address for other services provided in the HPMN (Home Public Mobile Network) country.

When fair usage has been exceeded the MNOs have the right to charge roaming fees like they have historically. In reality, the FUP data limits customer top up mechanisms and analysis of them, and resetting of FUP is going to be hard for MNOs to monitor and follow.

Surcharges

In the event that fair use policies fail, MNOs would be entitled to invoke the sustainability mechanism if they cannot recover their costs from providing international mobile roaming services, leading to “undermining its domestic charging model”. The threshold to apply a retail roaming surcharge is when the loss generated by the provision of roaming is at least 3% of the total revenues generated from mobile services.

The local regulator must give permission for an operator to impose the surcharge. From what we see and from discussions we have had with MNOs, there will be a lot of applications for surcharges.

In summary

On balance, no one knows exactly what is going to happen from June 15th onwards. There will be MNO leaders and MNO followers for sure. However, one thing is certain, there will be no single model across all MNOs in all EU member states and most likely any subscriber unless they roam a lot will not be able to see consistency in the models from one EU member state to the next, which may lead to confusion, further silent roaming and still many cases of bill shock.

We at UROS have created a platform that nicely simplifies all this. The subscriber knows how much they will pay and they can roam assured there won’t be any surprise bills. As a GSM service provider, we believe that the regulation is a good thing if it brings more roamers back to GSM services. But we also know that the regulators policies are sometimes complex and often restricting the free right to roam at predictable pricing that is all most subscribers really want.

Look out for more news from UROS as the regulation story of 2017 unfolds this summer.

Regulation references for further reading
- REGULATION (EU) 531/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 June 2012 on roaming on public mobile communications networks within the Union (recast)
- REGULATION (EU) 2015/2120 of the European Parliament and the Council of November 25, 2015 laying down measures concerning open internet access and amending Directive 2002/22/EC on universal service and users' rights relating to electronic communications networks and services and Regulation (EU) No 531/2012 on roaming on public mobile communications networks within the Union
- Proposal of June 15, 2016 for a REGULATION amending Regulation (EU) No 531/2012 as regards rules for wholesale roaming markets.