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Smaller European operators oppose EU roaming directive

14 European mobile operators have warned of the damaging effects that the EC’s plans regarding the abolition of roaming charges could have on competition in the region

14 European mobile operators have warned of the damaging effects that the EC’s plans regarding the abolition of roaming charges could have on competition in the region

A coalition of 14 European mobile operators has warned of the damaging effects that the European Commission’s plans regarding the abolition of roaming charges could have on competition in the region.

The coalition includes Liberty Global, Hutchison Whampoa and a host of smaller mobile operators and MVNOs that together serve over 35 million subscribers. They claim that they do not oppose the goal to abolish mobile roaming tariffs for users in the European Union. However, in regard to plans put forward by the European Commission to end roaming surcharges in the EU, the coalition is “extremely concerned that the text only focuses on the end of ‘retail’ roaming prices without ensuring revision of the corresponding regulated ‘wholesale’ roaming caps”. The legislation is now expected to be implemented in December 2015, according to the operators.

The coalition claims that waves of European regulation have forced down the level of wholesale roaming caps and that it is widely agreed that wholesale roaming caps serve to stimulate lower retail prices.

“Without any further reduction of wholesale caps, it will be economically impossible for operators to offer ‘roam-like-at-home’ (bundles aiming at offering roaming at the same retail price as domestic services) services across the European Union, instead having to rely on overpriced wholesale roaming charges from large mobile operators,” the coalition said in a statement.

It is also concerned about an insertion in the text provided by the EC referring to “other arrangements to address wholesale market problems”.

“This could be used as a Trojan horse for the European Commission to accept or promote roaming alliances between large operators (potentially anti-competitive and harmful to smaller players), or to postpone a review of the level of the wholesale roaming caps which Parliament requires by mid-2015,” the coalition added.

“The consequence of such wording would be to distort the market in favour of the largest mobile operators/groups, undermining the ability of competitive operators to compete equally in the market by offering ‘roam-like-at-home’ packages.”

Joining Liberty Global and H3G in the European coalition are EI Telecom, Intercity Zakelijk, Teleena, Telenet, Transatel, Omea Telecom/VirginMobile, Voiceworks, Bite Lithuania and Bite Latvia as well as Italian MVNOs CoopItalia, FastWeb and PosteMobile.

The Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee of the European Parliament is expected to vote on the text on March 18th 2014, followed by a plenary vote on the April 3rd 2014.

In January this year, the European Commission told that the legislation on European roaming charges would be delayed, but at the time was hopeful it would be introduced in September or October 2014, rather than July as originally planned.

“We won’t have the sign off from the national governments of the EU member states in July,” an EC spokesman told to “It’ll certainly be in 2014, but it’s much more likely we’ll see it finalised in September and October.”

The spokesman said that the EC is confident that the package will remain intact structurally but admitted that it is likely that there will be some compromises made on its way to gaining approval from EU committees and member state governments.

“It won’t look exactly how we wrote it, but we’re confident that it will stay roughly together the way we wanted it and that we’ll get it finished by October,” he said.

“We’re not too concerned if that’s a little bit delayed, what matters is that we get the final agreement and we’re on track to do that in September.”


Broadband World Forum will take place on 21st to 23rd October 2014 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam.

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Cellular News

Indian operators told to end roaming agreement

India's telecoms authorities want operators to end their roaming pact

India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will order mobile operators Bharti Airtel, Idea and Vodafone to end their roaming pact, according to local media reports.

The three operators had entered into an agreement with one another to offer 3G mobile services in India’s circles, or districts, in which they had failed to acquire spectrum in the country’s auction, when it was held last year. The Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Law Ministry and DoT have now all agreed that the operators’ roaming agreement is in violation of their telecom licences.

Tata Teleservices and Aircel, had also entered into similar agreements in six of India’s circles, but have already discontinued the arrangement.

“The decision has been taken that this (3G roaming pact) is in violation of terms and conditions of the licence. We will be issuing notices asking these operators to stop their service with immediate effect. But on penalty, no decision has been taken yet,” telecom secretary R Chandrasekhar told Indian news agency PTI. – telecoms industry news, analysis and opinion

Survey suggests LTE roaming premiums could be short-lived

Only around a fifth of respondents to the Intelligence Industry Survey 2014 strongly believe that mobile operators are justified in charging LTE roaming at a premium to other roaming services. But even fewer expect that specialist roaming providers will come to dominate the retail roaming market, suggesting that mobile operators will continue to derive vital revenues from roaming, despite pressure on tariffs from competition and regulation.

Price is expected to remain an important competitive differentiator in LTE roaming, although not the most important. We asked respondents to rate a number of competitive differentiators for roaming services on the same one to seven scale (where seven was extremely effective). Of the six options provided, price differentiation was ranked fourth by respondents in total and third by operator respondents.

It was nonetheless rated highly, with 41.4 per cent of respondents (and 44.4 per cent of operator respondents) scoring it six or seven. Judged most effective, and given a six or seven rating by half of respondents, was service continuity. Close behind, and reflecting responses to an earlier question, was guaranteed Qos (48.6 per cent), followed by integration with wifi (44.7 per cent; this was ranked fourth by operator respondents, given a high rating by 39.7 per cent). Judged least effective, with a high rating from 25.6 per cent of respondents, was geographical differentiation.

How effective do you believe the following differentiators are for operators providing LTE roaming? Where is extremely effective.

How effective do you believe the following differentiators are for operators providing LTE roaming? Where is extremely effective.

We asked respondents to rate eight potential charging models for LTE roaming services in terms of their benefit to the mobile operator. See the story here.

Chris Lennartz, head of mobile services at KPN-owned IPX provider iBasis suggests these results highlight the importance of the IPX model. “LTE Roaming will be limited initially to data roaming but, soon afterwards, delay- and error-critical services like VoLTE, RCS, video, M2M will follow, in order to provide Multi-Service Continuity in the transition to all-IP,” he says. “IPX has been designed to assign differentiated quality levels to specific services over one integrated pipe, using virtual links that can be managed separately. As this model works end-to-end, operators can start introducing a variety of services assigning the QoS they require.”

LTE roaming will not differ from earlier roaming simply in terms of service and business models. With a new signalling paradigm and the opportunity to address the inelegance of earlier approaches to routing there will be some key technological changes as well.

What do you believe will be the revenue and traffic impact of the European Commission's proposed removal of roaming premiums within the EU?

What do you believe will be the revenue and traffic impact of the European Commission’s proposed removal of roaming premiums within the EU?

The 2014 Intelligence Global Industry Survey drew responses from more than 2,000 industry professionals, including more than 700 operator representatives. The full report from the survey will be made available in mid-February. You can register to receive the report here.

India Seeks to Block 3G Roaming Deals Between Networks

India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has again ordered the 3G mobile networks to suspend roaming between each others networks where they lack coverage. Click here for more.


Orange includes European roaming in high-end contracts

Orange has said it has included roaming services in high-end tariffs for customers travelling across its entire European footprint

Orange has said it has included roaming services in high-end tariffs for customers travelling across its entire European footprint

French operator group Orange has included roaming services in high-end tariffs for customers travelling across its entire European footprint. The operator has also launched an online portal to enable customers to remotely top up mobile credit for over 350 operators globally.

Orange’s inclusion of roaming services in high end tariffs is limited to what it considers customers originating from its key European markets: France, Spain, Poland, Belgium, Romania, Slovakia and Luxembourg. The operator said roaming services will be included on a range of tariffs starting from €30 per month.

The move comes as the European Commission pushes to ban incoming call charges for EU citizens. However, the EC told last week that restrictions on European roaming charges are now likely to be introduced in September or October, rather than July as originally planned. In its initial proposals to reform the EU telecoms market, the European Commission intended to ban incoming call charges for roaming citizens within the region by July 1st 2014.

Orange added that it will launch LTE roaming from February for customers in France travelling to the UK, Portugal and South Korea. It said that LTE roaming will be fully available across its European footprint by the end of 2014 as well as in certain markets outside of Europe.

“Orange shares its customers’ conviction that using a mobile phone abroad should be worry-free,” said Stéphane Richard, CEO at Orange. “Today’s bold initiatives are designed to deliver on that promise, removing the need for many of our frequent roamers to even think about taking out a separate bundle.”

The operator has also launched Orange Top-Up, an online solution that enables people to remotely top-up mobile credit for customers of over 350 operators in the world.

Users can send mobile credit to a contact by entering the mobile number to be credited, select an amount and pay by credit card. An SMS is sent to the user to confirm the transaction and a personal message can be sent to the recipient to let them know their account has been topped-up.

The service is available online in English, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, and in three currencies; Euros, US dollars and South-African rand. It is aimed at migrants who live far from their families or friends.

Last week, French rival Bouygues Telecom introduced a plan that offers subscribers  a domestic package that also includes unlimited voice and text and 3GB of data to and from all EU countries (plus several non-EU) and French overseas regions. The Sensation plan will be priced from €29.99 per month.

MWC: Orange injects some innovation into its roaming services

Orange is partnering with water services specialist Veolia Water

Orange’s new roaming tariffs, launched at the Mobile Wold Congress in Barcelona today, are a good example of the type of new approach operators need to take to stimulate use of mobile services while abroad. They succeed in meeting the main requirement mobile users have when they travel abroad: will it cost an unjustifiably high amount to use my mobile services when I travel? Operators have yet to arrive at a conclusive approach to allow consumers to answer this question, but they are beginning to experiment with different approaches that should point the way to a solution.

Orange’s new tariff is innovative in that it offers roamers a bundle of mobile services for a set fee. For example, Orange France customers will be able to purchase a roaming bundle that includes 10 minutes of voice, 10 SMS’s and 10 MB for approximately €4-€5 on a daily basis when travelling in the EU. This will be available from June onwards.

While it remains to be seen how popular this bundled approach will be with customers, it is a step in the right direction for operators trying to stimulate roaming usage beyond the old price-per-minute/ SMS/ MB approach. Experimenting with different pricing structures will help operators see what works and what doesn’t, giving them much-needed insight into the link between price and use of mobile services while abroad. While pay-per-use tariffs work in-market, they haven’t succeeded in stimulating use of mobile services while abroad to levels comparable to home use, at least in the consumer market.

Meanwhile, Orange’s “Orange Travel App”, which was launched in France in June and will be expanded to other countries during the year, is an effective way for roamers to stay aware of how much they have used their mobile while travelling. Through awareness of mobile use roamers are likely to use mobile services more rather than less – as long as they know how much it is costing them. Other operators, especially the large multi-nationals can be expected to launch their own roaming apps as the year progresses.

The majority of pan-European operators are now innovating on roaming pricing to try and increase usage to offset regulatory-led wholesale and retail price cuts. The link between price decreases and increased roaming usage is difficult to quantify, not least because of the effect of the economic downturn on travel. But Orange’s bundled approach, combined with the Orange Travel App provide a solid foundation for Orange customers to use mobile services more often when they travel. – telecoms industry news, analysis and opinion

AT&T signs LTE roaming agreement with EE

AT&T has signed an LTE roaming agreement in the UK with EE

AT&T has signed an LTE roaming agreement in the UK with EE

US operator AT&T has signed an LTE roaming agreement in the UK with EE. The agreement was announced just days after the US firm inked a similar deal in Canada with Rogers Communications.

EE said that the size and speed of its LTE network, which will cover more than 160 towns and cities by Christmas, makes it an ideal roaming partner in the UK for international operators. The UK operator added that this is it first LTE roaming agreement and plans to announce more agreements early next year.

According to Chris Sims, commercial director at EE, one of the complexities facing LTE roaming is in the lack of spectrum harmonisation globally. However, Sims pointed out that such challenges will gradually be overcome.

“For example, handsets that support 1800MHz are available abroad today and we believe that regular travellers to Europe will begin to ask for 1800MHz handsets in their pockets and we believe the prevalence of that will increase.”

Sims could not divulge at this stage whether EE will announce a similar outbound roaming agreement in the US with AT&T but revealed that it is conducting several roaming tests with international operators currently and that it is looking primarily to partner with tier one operators.

“Bigger partners generally have better, more established network support which benefits customers and they typically have more traffic, which at a pure wholesale level is good for us as well,” he said.

He added that EE is working with partners to deliver more innovative wholesale models to allow both partners to gain benefit from unlocking customers’ roaming services usage. “That’s in stark contrast with the strategy today for 3G roaming,” he added.

Commenting on roaming legislation due to be introduced in the EU next year, Sims added that EE has its concerns about the success such legislation will bring.

“Historically we have always been told that lower pricing will generate elasticity and that has not always been the case, so we will see what next year brings,” he said.

“One thing is that there are requirements on decoupling being placed on operators. One of the things we have tried to do as a business is try to simplify our roaming plans. The legislation coming into force will allow our customers to buy roaming services from other providers and we believe that is going to introduce quite a lot of complexity that we have invested quite heavily to reduce in our roaming services.”

French 3G Network Allowed to Secure National Roaming Agreement

French mobile network, Free Mobile has expanded its network to reach 27% of the population. Click here for more.


T-Mobile USA abolishes data roaming charges

John Legere, CEO at T-Mobile USA

John Legere, CEO at T-Mobile USA

US operator T-Mobile has announced that it is cutting data roaming costs for its customers when they are travelling in more than 100 countries worldwide. The move, announced Wednesday evening by CEO John Legere, builds on the firm’s pricing overhauls in March, when it cut contract lengths and separated the cost of device from the cost of service, lowering monthly rates.

Legere described roaming costs as “completely crazy” and “insanely inflated” before announcing that data roaming and text messages would generate no extra costs for “most” users on its Simple Choice plans. Voice calls for these users will be charged at a flat rate of $ 0.20/minute across the same geography.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Legere said. “The truth is that the industry’s been charging huge fees for data roaming. But what’s most surprising is that no one’s called them out – until now.”

T-Mobile also announced that it had achieved nationwide coverage for its US LTE network. The firm claimed that the network is delivering faster speeds than those of both Verizon and Sprint, citing “recent third-party tests”.

The LTE North America conference is taking place on the 21st-22nd November 2013, in Dallas, Texas, USA. Click here NOW to download a brochure for the event.