When it comes to roaming charges in Europe, the EU’s aim is clear: abolish them.

With plans for a single telecoms market recently approved by the European Parliament, member countries will now review the regulation. If it’s agreed, EU customers will see costly roaming charges eliminated by July 2016.

However, there are already EU laws in place making it mandatory for European operators to invest in a market structure to promote the very same outcome of zero roaming charges.

Roaming III Regulation states that by July 2014, operators must be investing in systems to support the introduction of alternative roaming providers (ARPs).

The ARP market structure aims to increase competition in the roaming charges market and drive down costs for customers. Total spending on this by operators could run into the millions of pounds.

But, the EU admits that this alone is unlikely to eliminate roaming charges. The proposal from September 2013 states:

‘While the Roaming III Regulation with its structural measures will inject greater competition into the market it is not expected on its own to create a situation where customers can confidently replicate their consumption behaviour in their home Member State when travelling abroad and thereby to end roaming surcharges overall in Europe.’

In short, the regulation won’t achieve the EU’s end goal, but operators have to do it anyway.

The alternative? Operators can voluntarily reduce their roaming charges to domestic levels. But this eliminates the need for the ARP competitive market – if charges when roaming are no more than when at home, customers would have no reason to choose an ARP.

It seems then that any spending by operators under the ARP legislation would be a waste.

But what does this all mean for MVNOs?

The EU may be moving towards zero roaming charges, but the intercontinental market remains open to competition. Alternative Roaming MVNOs should therefore be focusing on intercontinental mobile users.

SmartIPX is already helping specialist MVNOs deliver an alternative roaming experience in the intercontinental market: contact us today to find out how we can you support you.

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