The EU commission has a lot of fun these days to find fair rules to abolish roaming fees from 2017. I’ve written down my thoughts here and here but actually, even if roaming fees go away, we are only halfway there. And that’s because there’s another thing that needs fixing: Rates for mobile calls between EU countries.
Today, only few people consider calling a fixed or a mobile number in another EU country from their mobile phone and usually also not from their fixed line either if they still have one. And that’s because especially on mobile, it’s very expensive.
Vodafone Germany, for example, charges its customer almost one euro per minute for the pleasure. As with roaming, competition between network operators hasn’t really set in. Vodafone has one in store for 5 euros a month for 60 minutes. Nice try. Other network operators who include EU fixed line calls in their standard bundles. But not mobiles. And I’ve come across a few network operators who offer unlimited EU fixed and mobile calls but you have to pay extra.
However, if we really want to have a single European market, a call from a Vodafone Germany customer at home to a Telefonica Germany customer at home should cost the same as a call to a Telefonica Spain customer at home. Technically, there is no difference. But as long as there is a difference between the two for customers, we are not living in a single European market and people refrain making calls to people in other countries. Except of course over Skype, Whatsapp and others because here, there is no difference.
Perhaps it’s time the EU started thinking about that as well because like roaming, competition hasn’t fixed this problem so far for most people, either. And it’s the majority that counts, not the few people who’ve bought a bundle to add this to their mobile contract.
But perhaps Skype, WhatsApp and others will fix the problem sooner than later with their apps on mobiles anyway. In many cases and for many people (including me) they’ve already done that. It’s time to wake up for traditional voice telephony to stay relevant because it’s got a lot going for it…