08 novembro 2010

Media: Spain and Portugal Aim to Eliminate Mobile Phone Roaming Charges
(NYTimes) Spain and Portugal are hoping to set a benchmark for telecommunications in the European Union by agreeing to eliminate cellphone roaming charges as part of efforts to promote their bilateral trade. 

Preliminary talks have been held and the issue is set to be on the agenda of a summit meeting next month in Portugal between José Sócrates, the Portuguese prime minister, and his Spanish counterpart, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

Mr Sócrates said in a recent interview that such an agreement would bring “a considerable benefit” to bilateral trade and to millions of businessmen and tourists who travel across the Iberian peninsula each year. An agreement would also likely be welcomed by the European Commission, which has long been on a mission to require telecom operators to reduce differences in national roaming charges as well as between E.U. members to close to zero by 2015 to create a genuine single market for communications among the bloc’s 27 member states. 

The European Union’s current roaming rules expire in July 2012, and the commission is to develop new proposals next spring for the period after 2012. Outlining her objectives, Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner responsible for overseeing telecom regulations, said in a speech to an industry association last September “significant differences between roaming charges and national tariffs cannot be justified in a true single market.” “For me,” she added, “a true digital market is a market where effective competition ensures that citizens, customers and businesses do not experience substantially different services or costs when they pass a border.” 

Portuguese exports to Spain last year amounted to €8.3 billion, or $11.6 billion, while its imports from Spain reached €16.2 billion, making Spain the leading commercial partner for Portugal, according to data from Aicep, the Portuguese investment agency. A Spanish Industry Ministry official said it was too early to comment since the agenda of the summit meeting had not yet been completed. A roaming agreement between Spain and Portugal would also have a direct impact on telecom operators like Orange and Vodafone, which have an extensive network of European subsidiaries and are among the biggest domestic operators in both Spain and Portugal. 

Vodafone’s voice roaming service, set up in 2005, has more than 24 million clients across Europe, who pay a set-up fee in return for using domestic rates when abroad. Simon Gordon, a spokesman for Vodafone, said it did not split out roaming revenue by country and would not comment on the Portuguese-Spanish plan “until such time a firm proposal or a consultative document is published publicly.”

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