EU to cut cost of roaming mobiles
The European Union is introducing new rules which will make it cheaper to use mobile and smartphones abroad.
The proposals from the European Commission (EC) are intended to increase competition among providers and place new limits on roaming charges.
For the first time, the EU also plans to cap the price individuals have to pay for going online from a smartphone or tablet computer when moving from one country to another.
The new rules - which have yet to be approved by EU states and MEPs - will apply to the trading bloc's 27 member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
They will take effect when the EU's existing regulation on mobile roaming expires at the end of June next year.
Neelie Kroes, who is in charge of the EU's digital agenda, said: "We are proposing a long-term structural solution to get to the root cause of roaming rip-offs, namely the lack of competition, by giving mobile users more choice and by making it easier for alternative operators to gain access to the roaming market."
From July 2014 operators will have to open their networks to providers from another EU state, which would give consumers more firms to choose from, she said.
That move could make it easier for existing operators to offer services in a different country or give opportunities to new providers which do not have their own networks.
Also from mid-2014, consumers will be able to sign a separate roaming contract, allowing them to take advantage of cheaper offers when moving about.
"If people do opt for a separate roaming contract, the phone will automatically switch to their preselected roaming provider when travelling - using the same phone number and without changing their SIM card every time," said Ms Kroes.