The European Commission will this week press ahead with new laws designed to scrap “rip-off” mobile network roaming charges by 2016.
Operators will be given the option to either work within new regulations that will cut roaming revenues by two thirds and force them to allow customers to choose other operators when they travel, or to scrap the charges and be freed from red tape.
Officials plan to use a “carrot and stick” approach to persuade mobile operators, who have strongly opposed further cuts to roaming charges. They typically account for 10pc of revenues and a higher proportion of profits.
A Brussels source said: “They complain about our regulations being too complicated so this is their chance to prove it.
“We’re going to promise to leave them alone if they get rid of the charges.”
Officials do not expect all operators to fall in line immediately, but believe under the new regime the economics of roaming charges under will make them unsustainable.
Neelie Kroes, vice president of the Commission, who will announce full details of the new rules on Wednesday, said: “We need business models based not on yesterday’s rip-offs, but on tomorrow’s digital opportunities: with revenues not from outrageous margins on roaming, but from new innovative services that people will want to pay for.
“It is about fairness. Europeans are tired of rip-off roaming prices: my proposal would end them, making your mobile package valid across the EU, at no extra charge.”
The proposals are expected to be waved through by MEPs, who see scrapping roaming charges as a popular consumer cause across the bloc.
Ms Kroes said the new laws would encourage more telecoms mergers to create pan-EU operators with the strength to invest more in fixed-line and mobile broadband.
She said: “Japan, South Korea and the USA have around the same population as the EU – but over 8 times more fixed fibre broadband, and almost 15 times more 4G. Europe needs to catch up.”