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Lower roaming fees on their way

Slovakia's mobile operators will offer lower call prices to clients abroad in response to the EU's recent Europe-wide cap on roaming charges.
The European Commission made the roaming regulation binding in all member countries after repeatedly urging mobile operators to lower their roaming charges.

Slovakia's mobile operators will offer lower call prices to clients abroad in response to the EU's recent Europe-wide cap on roaming charges.

The European Commission made the roaming regulation binding in all member countries after repeatedly urging mobile operators to lower their roaming charges.

Though some phone operators said the move was inappropriate interference in the mobile phone business, according to Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society, clients will benefit from the regulation and increased competition.

In mid-July, the European Central Bank (ECB) set the fixed exchange rate for the calculation of the so-called eurotariff at Sk33.635 per euro for the next 12 months. This means that after August 30, clients of Slovak operators using their mobiles abroad will pay €0.49 (Sk19.6 including VAT) a minute at the most for outgoing calls and €0.24 (Sk9.6 including VAT) a minute for incoming calls. These rates have been fixed until the end of 2007.

Some operators in Slovakia have already been offering roaming charges below or close to the eurotariff as part of their summer sales campaigns.

Telefónica O2 Slovakia, which started operating in Slovakia this February, does not charge its roaming clients for incoming calls as part of its summer programme, Hana Hejsková, spokesperson for Telefónica O2 Slovakia, told The Slovak Spectator. Prices for making calls were halved, she said.

Telefónica's clients pay Sk18 or Sk27 a minute depending on the country they are calling from. These prices will be valid until the end of August. A newcomer on the market, Telefónica O2 Slovakia is only offering roaming services in a limited number of countries. However, the fact that these already include Slovakia's neighbours and popular holiday destinations such as Croatia, Greece, Turkey and Italy makes the move quite competitive nonetheless.

Mobile operator T-Mobile reduced roaming charges in mid-June to levels close to this year's eurotariff. T-Mobile charges its clients Sk10.1 for calls received abroad. As of August 30, it will cut this price in order to meet the regulation. The company also offers a special summer sale during which its clients can receive calls in EU countries and Croatia between 17:00 and 20:00 free of charge.

Since the operator cut prices for calls made abroad by 60 percent this summer, it will only have to make a minor adjustment to match its prices to the eurotariff. However, T-Mobile Slovensko was not happy with the new regulation.

"The regulated prices do not take into consideration costs linked with providing roaming services," Martin Vidan of T-Mobile Slovensko told The Slovak Spectator. "In some countries, especially in summer tourist destinations, this may lead to the loss of operators."

Slovakia's third operator Orange Slovensko has launched a summer roaming programme allowing clients to receive calls abroad for Sk2.3 a minute. But since such calls are limited to 50 minutes a month and can be made only between 13:00 and 17:00, and as the price of all other calls received abroad comes to Sk17.7, the eurotariff of Sk9.6 might well please Orange's clients.

The eurotariff will mean better prices for Orange clients as their roaming charges are under the cap only in certain EU countries.

Orange is preparing a new pricelist but has not yet revealed the details.

"We respect legal and regulation directives valid in Slovakia," Orange Slovensko spokesperson Peter Tóth told The Slovak Spectator. "But we regard regulation in the form of a price cap to be unsuitable interference into relations on the market, which we consider to be competitive. The development of roaming prices in Europe over the last few years proves this."

After about a one-year debate, EU ministers adopted rules in late June limiting roaming charges in all 27 member countries. Mobile operators are obliged to offer eurotariff-compliant prices by July 30 at the latest. Clients of operators that do not adjust their prices will automatically have to pay the EU-approved tariff as of August 30.

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