Tuesday, 7 April 2009

EU announces cap on data roaming charges

Good news for the business traveller this week with the European Parliament's approval of the European Commission's proposed cap on data roaming charges. As of the 1st July mobile operators will be able to impose a maximum €1 per MB charge for data roaming. Parliament also moved to force operators to improve the transparency of charges.

This represents a significant improvement compared to the €5/MB (if I'm lucky) that I would usually expect to pay. But, in absolute terms it's hardly enough to make any impact on mass market usage. Instead of being hit by a €1,500 bill for downloading a half hour show via iPlayer while on my hols, it would only be only €300. Very reasonable.

Will this have an impact on business users? A modest one at best I would have thought. In these tough economic times I'd imagine most laptop users would wait until they get to the hotel, with it's (relatively) low cost WiFi, rather than accepting €1/MB charges. What will happen is that previously non-price conscious users will continue to use at the same rate and those who avoided using MBB while overseas will continue to do so. The result is a drop off in revenue for the MNOs. However, with other MBB revenue growing very rapidly, it's unlikely that MNOs will feel much of a pinch from lost enterprise revenue. The water-bed effect argument that is trotted out when voice terminations rates are cut is unlikely to be credible.

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