EU official to operators: Cut data roaming fees

European telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding on Thursday dismissed efforts by mobile phone operators to cut data roaming prices.

European telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding on Thursday dismissed efforts by mobile phone operators to cut data roaming prices, and warned them that if they don't make bigger reductions themselves by the end of this month, she will intervene to force down the prices as she did with roaming costs on phone calls last year.

On Wednesday, the GSM Association, a trade group representing mobile phone operators, claimed that the average retail price of data roaming fell by 25 percent in the year to April 2008 in the European Union, and that E.U. data roaming traffic grew 75 percent over the same period.

According to Reding this equates to a reduction of one eurocent per roamed SMS (Short Message Service) message -- 28 eurocents, down from 29 eurocents a year ago.

"I am not impressed by this," Reding said. "And if this stays unchanged until 1 July, you see from today's Council that I will not be the only one to believe that regulatory intervention will be necessary again," she added, referring to a meeting of 27 national telecommunications ministers, which she attended on Thursday.

Data roaming allows travellers to access multimedia services using their mobile phone or laptop. It also includes services such as sending and receiving SMS messages via a mobile phone.

The data released by the GSM Association on Wednesday mostly lumped all these services together. The new market for 3G (third-generation) mobile phone services such as mobile Internet access is growing rapidly and the prices are falling more steeply than in the mass market for SMS messaging, that Reding is focused on.

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