Ofcom finally calls for cuts in data roaming fees
By Simon Aughton
Posted on 30 Jan 2008 at 12:05
Ed Richards, the UK telecoms regulator, has called for a reduction in the costs of mobile internet access and sending text messages from abroad.
The Ofcom chief executive has finally woken up, after repeated calls for the cost of mobile data to be examined by regulators. Phone manufacturers BlackBerry and Sony Ericsson voiced their concerns about the high price of mobile data last year, with the latter's Henrik Voight claiming users were "afraid" of mobile data because "they don't want surprises."
The Ofcom boss now shares those concerns, claiming the cost of roaming access to data services hurts businesses' competitiveness, not to mention consumers' pockets. The average price in the UK for accessing 1MB of data is around £1.50, he told a meeting of European regulators, but that rises to £4.11 when a mobile phone is used abroad.
"However you look at this, it is extremely expensive. It could cost tens of pounds to download a single PowerPoint presentation," Richards says.
"These prices represent a significant price hurdle to the use of mobile internet while abroad. My biggest concern is the effect on businesses which increasingly depend on mobile connectivity."
Last year the European Commission resisted industry opposition and introduced new caps on the cost of call roaming. Charges for making calls while abroad fell by 60% on average, and in some cases operators cut prices below the EU's limits.
The Commissioner for Information Society & Media, Viviane Reding, said at the time that she would turn her attention to data roaming prices this year. Ofcom's backing, in common with other regulators, will increase the pressure on mobile operators to reduce prices voluntarily.
Some have already done so, notably O2, which cut the price of sending or receiving 1MB of data from £15 to £3 on its pay-as-you-go data plans, though Richards said that charges need to fall further than that.
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