* Draft removes fixed date for end of mobile roaming fees
* Telecoms operators had fought end of roaming charges
By Julia Fioretti
BRUSSELS, Sept 23 The elimination of roaming
fees for using mobile phones in other EU countries could be
delayed in what would be a win for big European telecoms
operators at the expense of consumers, according to a draft EU
Outgoing EU telecoms commissioner Neelie Kroes had made
ending such charges for people using their phones across borders
inside the bloc a banner element in a package to overhaul the
ailing telecoms sector and in April EU lawmakers overwhelmingly
voted to abolish roaming fees by 2016.
But a new draft of the text from Italy, which holds the
rotating presidency of the 28-nation European Council makes no
mention of the date proposed by parliament - Dec. 15, 2015.
Though the draft is likely to be further revised, it
suggests only a "glidepath", or gradual reduction in roaming
fees towards the goal of "roam like at home" (RLAH) - a time
where someone using, say, a British mobile phone in Italy will
pay the same charges as if they were still in Britain.
"The legislative date for the initial introduction of RLAH,
subject to transitional measures and fair use limits, needs to
be defined and is a significant political question," the draft
Charges for roaming have been repeatedly cut by the European
Commission, the EU's executive, since 2007. Industry sources say
ending roaming charges is not in doubt, it is just the timing.
Removing a source of revenue prematurely would hinder operators'
ability to invest in faster networks, they say.
Kroes's reform of Europe's telecoms sector is aimed at
increasing its competitiveness with the United States and Asia
and spurring the continent's big operators like France's Orange
and Britain's Vodafone to invest in faster
The Italian proposal will be discussed by national experts
in Brussels on Thursday and is likely to undergo changes, said
A key plank of the reform was to break down barriers between
markets by making the sale of airwaves, or spectrum, more
uniform across Europe.
Kroes had proposed giving the Commission a greater say in
coordinating the timing of spectrum auctions across countries to
help mobile operators expand across borders.
Under the latest draft however, the Commission's power is
curtailed and it would only be able to suggest a common
timetable, with the final decision remaining in the hands of
Telecoms operators had welcomed the Commission's measures to
help them buy airwaves across Europe, but member states are
loath to give up control over the auctions as they are lucrative
source of tax revenue.
(Editing by Alastair Macdonald)