Mobile phone operators T-Mobile and Vodafone both announced on Monday they are lowering their international roaming charges, a move that won them a tentatively positive response from the European Commission.
The price cuts follow a recent announcement from Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for information society and media, that she intended to regulate the market in order to force down the cost of using a mobile phone abroad.
Vodafone announced a reduction in European roaming prices of 40 per cent, to be in place by April 2007 at the latest. This follows on from the introduction last year of their Passport service, which allows customers to use their phones abroad at domestic rates, provided they pay a connection fee of 75p per call.
T-Mobile is also introducing a flat-rate package. From 1 June, it will charge contract and pre-pay customers 55p per minute to use their phones in Europe and North America. T-Mobile claims this represents a reduction of between 20 per cent and 54 per cent, depending on whether the customer is on contract or pre-pay.
Reding has called on the mobile operators to charge their customers the same rate across Europe, effectively eliminating roaming charges in the region. Although T-Mobile and Vodafone's moves don't go this far, the EC has still given them a cautious thumbs-up.
A spokesman for the Reding's office said in an initial reaction to Monday's news: "The Commission welcomes everything that goes in the right direction in terms of the reduction of international roaming costs."
He said although the EC does not comment on specific commercial announcements the move was "a very good sign for the industry" but added that the Commission still wanted more from "other players".
Vodafone said the price reductions were part of "an ongoing process of offering better value" to the operator's customers. He said Vodafone agreed prices must come down but disagreed with the EC on how this should happen.
A Vodafone spokesman told silicon.com sister site ZDNet UK: "The Commission seems to be suggesting regulation is the way. We say the market is the best mechanism for ensuring better services and value."
T-Mobile said it believed "initiatives like these are a better way of reducing roaming rates than regulation". It also claimed to have been a long-standing campaigner for lower roaming costs.
Reding's office has been conducting a public consultation into the price of roaming in Europe, which will close at the end of this week.
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