How well we know these days about the situation with Roaming in Europe, it seems that every newspaper has its angle and typically inflated stories of “bill shock” and how we were promised 2015 would be the special year when Roaming would cease… Roam like at Home (RLAH) the experience and the economies.
Someone commented on a ROCCO post recently,
Roaming is legacy, there was a time when mobile operators could do what they wanted…
Such is the perception that Roaming fees are going or gone. But in reality we are still right in the middle of this debate.
Now the European Commission decided that RLAH will have to wait until 2018, because fundamentally there are still a number of issues to resolve first:
1) Permanent Roaming where we have the potential to permanently roam on the cheapest GSM sim we can find in Europe
2) Wholesale Roaming Costs where we must consider how much Operators pay to other Operators/Vendors for supplying Roaming
Interestingly however the Regulatory decision earlier this year to allow customers of Belgium Mobile Operators to roam freely (literally and economically) to Luxembourg (Roaming border falls between Luxembourg and Belgium) and vice versa is a landmark step in European Telecoms history. People you discuss it with will tell you, well its only Luxembourg which coverage wise is not significant. But the fact is two of the European Parliament based countries have potentially led the way to a new harmonisation of European Telecommunications and the birth of the Digital Single Market logistics.
As an ex-Luxembourg resident I can confirm you can from the capital roam over the border in 20 minutes to France, Germany etc! Next steps are planning to be Netherlands and Germany… so the move to a Single Market of sorts is clearly developing…
This situation however if rolled out across Europe does not resolve the Permanent Roaming scenario. If an Italian could buy a UK SIM in London and pay cheaper rates using that sim in Italy, why would they subscribe to TIM, 3, WIND or Vodafone?
Only if the sale of spectrum is possible across the EU would this make sense.
Clearly Radio Spectrum is a vital building block for the deployment of Telecommunications. The way that Spectrum is managed today in many ways defines the way that Roaming works for all EU citizens. If there was harmonisation of Spectrum sales across borders or between countries you could imagine that everything could be very different in Europe.
In a report presented in May by the European Commission (EC) called A Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe. The EC states:
managed at national level and Member States receive valuable revenues from the sale of spectrum rights – and these revenues will remain exclusively with Member States. However, national spectrum management results in widely varying conditions (e.g. different licence durations, coverage requirements): the absence of consistent EU-wide objectives and criteria for spectrum assignment at national level creates barriers to entry, hinders competition and reduces predictability for investors across Europe.
- A consistent single market approach to spectrum policy and management
- Delivering the conditions for a true single market by tackling regulatory fragmentation to allow economies of scale for efficient network operators and service providers and effective protection of consumers
- Ensuring a level playing field for market players and consistent application of the rules, (iv) incentivising investment in high speed broadband networks (including a review of the Universal Service Directive) and (v) a more effective regulatory institutional framework.
On balance, Europe is taking steps, light steps but it is moving. So maybe even if Roaming is not quite “legacy” we are on the way to creating the much needed harmonisation and breaking down of the borders which could possibly lead to Mobile Operators having international coverage areas. Then Operators face a survival of the fittest contest to win subscribers from multiple countries.
What are your thoughts?