EU to slash price of mobile roaming

The cost of calling, texting and accessing the internet on mobile phones while abroad is about to get cheaper for European residents.

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The cost of calling, texting and accessing the Internet via mobile phones while abroad is about to get cheaper for European residents, following an agreement among lawmakers over the shape of a new mobile roaming law.

Members of the European Parliament and representatives of the 27 national governments reached an informal agreement to cut prices from 1 July.

The compromise they struck must be rubber-stamped by both institutions, probably in April, but the hard negotiating is over, said Adina-Ioana Valean, a Romanian member of the European Parliament involved in the negotiations.

"I am pleased that today we have made an important step towards reaching an agreement that strikes a balance between the interests of all the stakeholders involved in the proposed roaming regulation. I am hopeful that all parties will endorse a concrete first-reading agreement so that European consumers can fully benefit from this new regulation by the beginning of this summer," Valean said.

Assuming that the compromise reached Tuesday is endorsed next month, this will be the fastest ever piece of legislation to pass through the European Union lawmaking machine. The initial text was drafted by the European Commission last September.

The compromise sets ceiling limits on the prices telecom operators can charge for making and receiving calls while outside the subscribers' home country. From 1 July this year the ceiling will be €0.43 ($0.80) per minute, excluding VAT, for calling and €0.19 per minute for receiving a call. A year later the maximum roaming costs will drop to €0.39 and €0.15, respectively, and in 2011 they will drop to €0.35 and €0.10.

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