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Potential changes to the regulation of international roaming outlined in the European Commission (EC)’s Connected Continent proposals have put increased pressure on operators’ retail pricing strategies, while also weakening the business case for alternative roaming providers. This Viewpoint outlines the strategies available to operators given the uncertainty of the regulatory environment.

Executive summary

Disproportionately high international roaming prices have long been a concern for regulators and the issue remains high on the agenda of the European Commission (EC). This issue is an important part of the EC’s ‘Connected Continent’ proposals, which were announced in September 2013. The cornerstone of the so-called ‘Roaming IV’ proposals is the stated desire for international roaming premiums within Europe to be eliminated by 2016 through the implementation of ‘roam-like-at-home’ (RLAH) retail pricing. (The RLAH principle is that calls, text messages or data usage in another European Economic Area (EEA) country will be charged at domestic rates.)

These proposals represent a change in direction from one of the key elements of Roaming III, namely the introduction of structural decoupling of international roaming, which is due to come into force on 1 July 2014. Under the new proposals, operators following a glide path towards RLAH will not be required to open their services to alternative roaming providers (ARPs).

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The International roaming in Europe: operator strategies in response to regulatory uncertainty

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