The European Commission and European lawmakers and governments reached an agreement to reform mobile roaming fees, allowing consumers to pay less for calls, texts and mobile web services when travelling abroad, in a measure that could hit telecom industry profits.
The deal announced on Wednesday is expected to be approved by the European Parliament in May and would take effect in July.
The agreement sets roaming fees and the pace of their decline in the coming years at compromise levels between those of an initial proposal by the executive European Commission and tougher levels proposed by the parliament in February.
Under the new deal, charges on calls made while travelling in other EU countries cannot exceed 29 cents per minute (currently 35 cents per minutes) and calls received while outside the home country should cost no more than 8 cents per minute (currently 11 cents per minute). Both charges will drop further in the next two years, with charges on calls made falling to 24 cents in 2013 and 19 cents in 2014, while calls received dropping to 7 cents and 4 cents in 2013 and 2014, respectively.
Sending a text message while away has a ceiling charge of 9 cents per minute, down from 11 cents per minute today. In 2013, the charge to send a text message will lower to 8 cents per minute, eventually reaching 6 cents per minute by 2014.
Starting July 2012, accessing the internet will cost 70 cents per megabyte, moving to 45 cents in July of 2013, and 30 cents by July of 2014.
The reform, likely to erode revenues at Europe's big telecom groups such as France Telecom (Paris) and Deutsche Telekom (Bonn, Germany), also aims to increase competition by allowing consumers to choose their mobile operator when they cross borders.
In effect, the move creates a new market for roaming services instead of requiring people to use their home-country operator.
EU lawmakers haggled for nine months over how much they could reduce roaming costs. The final prices are much lower than the Commission's initial proposal made in July 2011.