Sept. 12 - Cuts to roaming charges aside, a new EU initiative to boost the telecoms market has met with little enthusiasm. David Pollard reports.
High roaming charges in Europe could become a thing of the past. They're due for another price battering under an EU plan to boost investment towards a single European telecoms market. Cross-border calls will be charged at domestic rates; roaming capped at 19 cents a minute; no extra for receiving international calls. The moves were announced by EU Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, in Brussels. (SOUNDBITE) (English) EU COMMISSIONER FOR DIGITAL AGENDA NEELIE KROES SAYING: "The first step is to ban incoming call charges from 2014. The second new step is to offer companies a cheaper way to deliver EU wide roam like at home." The plan also aims to give the EU more control - and a veto option - over the sale of mobile phone frequencies or 'spectrum'. But industry watchers say that could be opposed by national governments who want to retain control over an important revenue source. And Europe's mobile giants are questioning how much extra investment will be generated. The cuts to roaming charges and existing 4G outlay narrows the scope for extra money. IHS Global Insight analyst, Peter Boyland. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PETER BOYLAND, TELECOMS ANALYST, IHS GLOBAL INSIGHT, SAYING: "The EU says it will encourage investment, but it's really difficult to see at the moment where this spur is going to come from." Boyland sees little prospect of investors' hopes for a round of consolidation amongst the big players - and only moderate progress towards a single market. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PETER BOYLAND, TELECOMS ANALYST, IHS GLOBAL INSIGHT, SAYING: "In terms of the larger operators getting larger, I don't think it's going to have much of an effect on that. What we will see is more deals between operators not necessarily owned by the same company whereby they will reach agreements to use each others networks across borders when their customers are abroad." For the plan to become law, it needs to win the blessing of all 28 EU governments and the EU parliament - a process which could take another year.