From 1 July, the European Union's mobile roaming regulation will be extended to include price caps for data downloads which will mean significant savings for those using maps, email and social networks when travelling.
The improved EU roaming regulation - taking into account calls, SMS and data - will deliver consumers savings of 75% across a range of mobile roaming services, compared to Europe's 2007 prices.
Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: "By putting price caps on data we have created a roaming market for the smart phone generation. More than that, we have ended the rip-offs familiar to anyone who has used a mobile phone while travelling abroad. I am pleased that year after year the European Union is putting money back in the pockets of citizens."
"From 2014 we are also delivering a permanent solution to the roaming issue, something better than any price cap. We are bringing full competition to this market by making it easy to choose a separate roaming provider. If you can find a better offer compared to your standard contract you'll be able to do it in a few simple swipes, just like when you choose a wifi network."
The new prices caps, which will enter into force on 1 July 2012, are:
- 29 cents per minute to make a call, plus VAT
- 8 cents per minute to receive a call, plus VAT
- 9 cents to send a text message, plus VAT
- 70 cents per Megabyte (MB) to download data or browse the Internet whilst travelling abroad (charged per Kilobyte used), plus VAT.
Downloading data previously cost more than €4 per Megabyte from many operators in July 2009 - now those prices will be cut by around six times. By 2014, as prices are cut further, the maximum cost of downloading data will be just 20 cents per Megabyte, plus VAT, a saving of 90% on many current rates.
EU said that operators remain free to offer cheaper rates, hoping that competition should drive them lower.
To help avoid "bill shock" from 1st July 2012, people travelling outside the EU will also get a warning text message, email or pop-up window when they are nearing €50 of data downloads, or their pre-agreed level.
From 1 July 2014, customers will have the option to shop around for a separate mobile roaming provider ? either through a contract or by choosing a provider at their destination, like they would choose a Wi-Fi network. All with the same number.
Mobile network operators in visited countries will have an incentive to offer such services at rates close to national prices, on the basis of their own low national network costs. As people's mobile data use intensifies, and they want to use their devices anywhere, any time, many travelers are likely to find this Wi-Fi - like option very attractive. "These forces will reinforce each other to create lower prices and better network coverage," EU said in a statement.
Price caps will stay in place until 30 June 2017, EU added.