Baltic mobile operators watch 'roaming debate' in Brussels

  • 2006-07-19
  • From wire reports
VILNIUS - Baltic mobile operators are mulling over efforts by the European Commission to regulate mobile phone roaming charges, though there is disagreement as to whether lower charges would benefit operators.

In line with proposals drawn up by the commission, customers would pay no more than 0.49 euro per minute when using their mobile phones to call their home country when visiting another member state. The rates within that member state would not exceed 0.33 euros, while calls received would cost 0.16 euro per minute.

Tomas Lamanauskas, deputy director of Lithuania's Communications Regulatory Authority (RRT), said the commission's drive to regulate retail roaming charges was too hasty. Any stringent regulation of that area might prompt operators to raise rates applied on the domestic market, he warned. A study conducted by RRT shows that Lithuania's mobile users are mostly concerned with the rates of calls within the country, and are not too interested in roaming charges.

Giedrius Makauskas, Omnitel marketing director, pointed out the benefits should roaming rates be cut. "We never did earn big business from roaming. We believe that the proposal to cut rates is a positive one," Makauskas noted.
So does European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Commenting on the proposal, which aims to slash mobile phone costs abroad by 70 percent, Barroso said, "The single market is first and foremost for consumers… Here is a practical application of our 'Europe of results' approach. With our proposal today, consumers using mobile phones within the single market will get a fairer deal."

Roaming charges affect 147 million Europeans, the commission has reported, 75 percent of whom are business travelers.
If the European Parliament and Council of Ministers back the proposal, the new rules would go into effect next year.
In Lithuania, the rates currently paid by customers of local mobile operators for the calls received abroad total approximately 3 litas (0.87 euro) per minute, or 5.3 times above the level proposed by the commission. The rate of calls to Lithuania range from 2 to 5 litas per minute or more. Moreover, the rate of calls via the network of one operator in a foreign country may reach 5 litas per minute.