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EU Commissioner ‘to ban roaming fees by 2017’

European Digital Economy Commissioner Günther Oettinger has said he wants to abolish roaming fees for mobile phone users within the EU by 2017.

EU Commissioner 'to ban roaming fees by 2017'
Photo: John T. Heffernan

“From the second quarter of 2017, roaming fees in the EU will probably fall away,” the former minister-president of Baden-Württemberg told journalists in Bonn.

“The European Commission, the governments of the 28 member states and the European Parliament (EP) will probably agree on it very soon.”

Oettinger's announcement comes just over a month after the European Commission dropped plans to abolish roaming charges from 2016 after objections from telecoms companies in smaller member states.

But a new compromise had to be reached after consumers' organizations and the EP protested vociferously.

“If the end of roaming comes in 2017, companies have a year longer compared with the old plans to conform to the new rules,” Oettinger said.

“And consumers will see yet more that they profit from the single market in telecoms. Roaming fees have already sunk a great deal.”

Austrian telecoms companies say they have already been hit hard by reduced roaming costs, in a market which relies on tourism and is highly competitive.

T-Mobile said it lost 5.5 to 6 percent of its revenue last year and believes that banning roaming fees will increase the traffic load on Austria’s networks – adding to immense data growth without any financial growth.

Wave of mergers expected

But Oettinger believes that the EU must consolidate its telecoms market – pointing to the 280 telecoms companies across Europe compared with four in the US.

“To become more competitive and consolidate their networks, many more companies will merge in the coming years.

“That should lead to the European telecoms industry playing a bigger role on the global stage. But competition has to be assured.”

The Commissioner hopes to arrange the European telecoms market such that, for example, people could use a self-driving car – “an important market for Germany's car manufacturers” – to travel seamlessly from one country to another.

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BUSINESS

Germany’s BMW to put €1 billion into electric vehicles in Austria

German auto manufacturer BMW said on Monday it would invest "around one billion euros" in the production of electric vehicles at a plant in Austria from 2025.

Germany's BMW to put €1 billion into electric vehicles in Austria

Altogether, 600,000 units a year should roll off the line at the factory in Steyr under the investment plan, set to run until 2030, BMW said in a statement.

From 2025, BMW will “develop and produce the next generation of e-drives” at the Austrian site, BMW’s production chief Milan Nedeljkovic said.

The refurbishment of the plant will see two new production lines added and the location expanded by 60,000 square metres.

The new facilities would require €710 million in investment, while €230 million would be dedicated to boosting vehicle development at Steyr.

“Around half” the 4,400 employees at the site would be working on “e-mobility” by 2030, plant boss Alexander Susanek said.

The Bavarian manufacturer said it aimed to have two million electric vehicles on the road by 2025, promising 13 new electric models and a revamp of its Mini brand.

BMW has already said it will spend €400 million to upgrade its home factory in Munich to produce electric vehicles.

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