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  • Thierry Spanjaard

Citizens make use of EU advantages

The European Commission (EC) seems to discover that removing fees is actually beneficial to end users, at the expense of service suppliers. The EC just published a report[1] that recognizes an immediate and significant increase in mobile calls and data usage by European citizens travelling in the EEA (European Economic Area) in the eighteen-month period that has followed the abolition of reaming charge fees within the EEA.

According to this report, the use of mobile data has grown five times on average compared to the levels before June 2017. The number of phone calls made by travelers has roughly doubled compared to the previous period.

The principle established by the European Commission has been dubbed "Roam-Like-At-Home" (RLAH), establishing that a user should be charged the same way when he travels within the EEA as when he is at home. The only restriction is the “fair use” provision that protects the operators against users who would, for instance, use a SIM card permanently on roaming. These new rules have been applied by mobile network operators under the pressure of vigilant monitoring from national regulators and the Commission, according to the report.

The abolition of roaming fees is consistent with the principles of the European Union, it represents a concrete delivery of the Digital Single Market concept, that has been obtained after a decade of pressure and negotiation between the Commission and the mobile network operators, generally represented by their governments.

The end of roaming fees is part of a global movement of income reduction for the mobile network operators on their traditional business: voice and data access. One may also notice the European telecommunications market remains extremely protected; leading non-European operators, such as China Mobile, Airtel, China Unicom, America Movil, Reliance Jio or even Verizon or AT&T still have no presence in Europe.

Reduction of revenue in Europe makes the market less attractive to international players, thus protecting in the short-term European operators’ business. On the other hand, benefitting from a limited income, European operators are in a weaker position compared to their Asian or American counterparts when it comes to the development and the implementation of new technologies, leaving the leadership on 5G to other players.

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