Roaming prices in the Eastern partner countries are expected to fall by almost 90% by 2026, under a Regional Roaming Agreement currently being finalised with the support of EU4Digital.
In February 2019, during the Third Eastern Partnership Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy, the six Eastern partner countries reaffirmed their commitment to sign a Regional Roaming Agreement (RRA) by the end of 2020. Following this final endorsement, the EU4Digital Facility Telecom Rules team has been working on a regional initiative aimed at the harmonisation of international mobile roaming regulatory frameworks in the Eastern partner countries.
The RRA covers the ability for customers of mobile operators of Eastern partner countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine) to use mobile services while visiting any of the six Eastern partner countries.
A Roaming report conducted by the EU4Digital Facility shows that the RRA would bring a positive benefit for society in Eastern partner countries. For the six Easter partner countries, roaming prices for customers are expected to be reduced gradually during a five-year transition period, allowing for necessary market adjustments.
At the end of this period in 2026, it is expected that retail prices of roaming services in the Eastern partner countries will be reduced by 87% for consumers. Overall positive impact is estimated at €4.6 million, a figure which represents the difference between consumer surplus and revenue losses for mobile operators.
All mobile communications services normally available to a roaming customer are covered by the RRA:
- make and receive voice calls;
- send and receive SMS;
- use mobile data transmission services.
In order to sign the RRA, national approval procedures regarding the final RRA text have to be completed in each Eastern partner country. The following timeline is foreseen for the RRA:
- Late February or early March 2021
Eastern partner countries’ ministers plan to sign the RRA.
- Throughout 2021
Adoption of any amendments to laws and/or by-laws, necessary to achieve the objectives and implementation of the RRA.
- 1 January 2022
RRA enters into force, people in Eastern partner countries will pay less for mobile communications services while roaming within the six Eastern partner countries.
Roaming prices will still be falling in line with proposed glidepath. It is expected, that by the end of this period in 2026 the roaming charges for customers will be reduced by 87%.
- 1 January 2026
Roaming charges for customers expected to be further reduced as a result of mirroring new EU rates for wholesale prices and setting retail charges by adding calculated effective domestic prices.
Once the RRA is signed, it would ensure a substantial lowering of applicable roaming prices among the six Eastern partner countries. This would allow mobile communications networks’ roaming customers to enjoy more affordable services while roaming in other Eastern partner countries. On top of that, the implementation of changes to the legislative and regulatory framework required in order to introduce the RRA would also be a step towards harmonising their national regulatory setups with the EU regulatory framework.
International roaming area between Eastern partner countries and EU Member States
A commitment to explore the possibility of a common international roaming space, including the economically sustainable reduction of roaming tariffs between the Eastern partner countries and the EU Member States was confirmed at the Third Eastern Partnership Ministerial Meeting on the Digital Economy in February 2019. It was also agreed to launch discussions and to conduct a feasibility study to support that process.
Following this final endorsement from Eastern Partnership ministers, the EU4Digital Facility in October 2020 launched the EaP-EU roaming study, which is a new activity under the Telecom Rules thematic area. One of the underlying assumptions for further assessing the feasibility of a common EaP-EU roaming space is the signing of the RRA among Eastern partner countries, which is also being facilitated by the EU4Digital team.
The signing ceremony of the RRA is expected to take place in late February or early March 2021. Looking further, should the common roaming space between the EaP and EU Member States prove to be feasible, the EaP-EU study will aim to suggest the most appropriate legal, economic and technical option for implementation.