Pressure from EU regulators is most likely behind the mobile operator lowering fees on pan-European calls with a "favorite countries" plan
Mobile operator Orange has added new cheaper roaming offers for voice and data for customers travelling in Europe.
Earlier this year, the European information society and media commissioner Viviane Reding threatened the mobile industry with regulation if it did not voluntarily reduce the costs of mobile data roaming by 1 July and make fees "transparent" to the consumer.
For voice roaming, Orange is launching an offer called 'Favourite Countries'—which it says will deliver savings of between 18 and 60 per cent off the regulated 'Eurotariff', depending on which European country a customer lives in.
Customers pay an up-front monthly fee of €5 then select one or more countries from a list of eligible countries in order to achieve the lower roaming rates when making calls from those countries. There is a limit on the number of countries a customer can list as favourites—though that limit may vary.
The offer is currently available in France and Romania and is being extended—albeit with possible local variations—to Belgium, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and the UK across the summer, with Poland also joining in the autumn, according to Orange.
The operator is also introducing a data roaming offer, called Travel Data Daily, aimed at occasional travellers with laptops, which Orange claims will cut prices by up to 90 per cent on standard data roaming rates. The fixed price of Travel Data Daily will range from €12 to €15 (depending on country of residence) for 50MB for daily internet access within the EU.
Brigitte Bourgoin, executive VP of mobile operations at Orange told silicon.com: "Of course we share the Commission's desire to have a cost-effective roaming service. Rather than responding to regulatory pressure we want really to address market-based and business considerations. And the need to adapt to our customers' needs."
Asked whether the fact the data package costs can be reduced by 90 per cent indicates prices are too high, Bourgoin said: "We are adapting to the market and it's clear that the tariffs previously—particularly on data roaming—were more for B2B and now what we're doing is moving them towards consumer."
Orange in the UK is also tweaking its Pay As You Consume standard, per MB rate. Orange Business Services customers who will see the standard rate reduced from £3.50 per MB for data cards and £4.50 per MB for handsets, to £2.55 per MB for both data cards and handsets. Pay Monthly customers will also see prices fall from £8 per MB to £3 per MB; and Pay as You Go customers will see prices fall from £8 per MB to £4 per MB.
Thomas Hussan, senior analyst at JupiterResearch, told silicon.com: "I think the good news is that operators are beginning to address the data roaming issue," adding that high prices are one of the main inhibitors for the uptake of mobile data services abroad. He said lots of applications and services could be "unleashed" with more affordable tariffs.
But he added: "It sounds like a step into the right direction but between £2.55 and £4 per MB still makes email delivery or mobile internet browsing quite expensive to say the least."