EU telecoms chief drops plan to slash wholesale roaming prices

Neelie Kroes, european commissioner for digital technology, arrives at a meeting for European Liberal politicians in Amsterdam February 25, 2013. REUTERS/Bart Maat

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU telecoms chief Neelie Kroes has scrapped a draft proposal to cut wholesale roaming fees by as much as 90 percent, a European Commission document seen by Reuters showed, following criticism from major telecom companies.

The plan, which would have affected the wholesale prices that telecoms operators pay to access their rivals’ networks, was a key element of her efforts to create a single market for telecom services in the 28-country European Union.

They are also part of the Commission’s push to create jobs, boost the region’s competitiveness and help Europe catch up with the United States and Asia in mobile and broadband networks.

In an earlier draft of her proposals seen by Reuters, Kroes proposed a cap of 3 cents per minute for voice calls from July, 2014 to June 2022, a 70 percent reduction from the 10 cent cap which came into effect in July this year.

She also wanted to slash the wholesale cap for data to 1.5 cents per megabyte from the current limit of 15 cents.

Kroes’ latest draft plan seen by Reuters does not mention the issue at all.

Her spokesman Ryan Heath said: “We’ve made several technical improvements over the summer that will help us reach our ongoing objective of a real telecoms single market.”

People familiar with the matter said the chief executives of Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefonica and a senior official from Deutsche Telekom met Kroes late last month to express their concerns about her plans.

Kroes will unveil her proposals on September 10. She needs approval from the 28 EU members countries and European Parliament before they can be made into law.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by David Evans