Balkan states have filed a request to take part in a wireless telephone law that was passed by the European Parliament last month.
By Klaudija Lutovska for Southeast European Time in Skopje -- 01/06/12
Under the new law, mobile users will have more freedom to use their phones while travelling. [Reuters]
The European Commission (EC) has backed an initiative by the Macedonian Agency for Electronic Communications (AEC) to find a way for EU membership candidates to be covered by a law approved by the European Parliament last month to regulate the wireless communication industry.
The law, which sets price caps and introduces structural solutions to establish competition on the roaming market, is set to take effect on July 1st, replacing a 2007 regulation that expires June 30th.
Under the new regulations, mobile operators in the EU will have to cap roaming charges prices at 70 euro cents per megabyte, until June 30th 2017.
The caps will reduce the cost of a one-minute call to 29 euro cents, down from the current maximum of 35 euro cents. Text messages will also be cheaper, falling from the current price of 11 euro cents to 9 euro cents.
Alerts in the EU to prevent "bill shocks" will also be extended under the regulations. Starting in July, people will get a warning message when they approach 50 euros of charges in a month (excluding VAT), if the foreign network is compatible.
"We sent an initiative to equalise the cost of roaming with members of the EU. … This is a joint effort of the countries of the region to establish a single price of roaming services, following the example of the EU," Robert Ordanovski, director of the Agency for Electronic Communications of Macedonia, said at last month’s 2nd International Regulatory Conference.
The conference, held in Ohrid, included the regulatory bodies in the field of electronic communications and the information technology sector from Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Poland.
Vodafone's chief executive, Vittorio Colao, asked the EU not to reduce roaming prices because, he said, it will result in reduced investment in the future.
"Does Europe want jobs or Europe wants to cut prices? We should stop having constant intervention and leave the industry to invest that money. Investment means jobs, and not only in the telecommunications sector, but also in media, the entertainment industry and the developers of mobile applications," Colao said at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona earlier this year.
If the EC accepts the proposal sent by the Balkan states, the services will be reduced to one-fourth of the existing prices, said Ordanovski.
According to the Digital Agenda for the EU, until now, roaming prices were too high for users to communicate freely between member states, which had a negative impact on the economy and trade in Europe.
Reduced prices will help open the market, said Neelie Kroes, vice president of the commission responsible for Digital Agenda.
"By July 2014, European users will be able to choose different operators when they are abroad. Europeans will be free to use internet services across Europe, without being limited to their country. This will speed up the digital economy and the development of new web services," Kroes said.