The Commission has reduced roaming charges in the face of strong protest from incumbents.
However, unfortunately the Commission’s work to date has not solved the anticompetitive practices related to roaming.
At a fundamental level, roaming is a huge issue for early-stage Challengers as some
find it difficult or even impossible to get roaming agreements at all. New operators are at best forced to wait inappropriate lengths of time before getting roaming in place, or at worst, in the absence of effective regulation at the EC level, ignored.
“Incumbents are seeking to avoid extension of this roaming regulation from voice to data because they say regulated rates are bad for markets. I would point out that MTRs are regulated rates in favour of incumbents and I would like to apply the same logic to both sides of the equation,” Christian Salbaing, Managing Director, Hutchison Europe
Wholesale reform is needed
The real need for regulation is at the wholesale level rather than the retail level. At the wholesale level, large operators leverage their higher volumes to achieve lower wholesale costs and reciprocate by offering large foreign networks (roaming alliance members) preferential similar low wholesale roaming rates, while they keep prices for consumers and wholesale prices for independent operators excessively high. The current market structure is in the interests of large operators as they much prefer a universe made up of a small number of large players than a pluralistic landscape comprising many competitors.