“From the second quarter of 2017, roaming fees in the EU will probably fall away,” said European Digital Economy Commissioner Günther Oettinger on Monday.
“The European Commission, the governments of the 28 member states and the European Parliament (EP) will probably agree on it very soon,” the former minister-president of Baden-Württemberg told journalists in Bonn.
Oettinger's announcement comes just over a month after the European Commission dropped plans to abolish roaming charges from 2016 after objections from telecoms companies in smaller member states.
But a new agreement will need to be struck amid pressure from consumers' organizations and the EP itself.
“If the end of roaming comes in 2017, companies will have a year longer compared with the old plans to conform to the new rules,” Oettinger said.
Oettinger believes that the EU must consolidate its telecoms market – pointing to the 280 telecoms companies across Europe compared with just four in the US.
“To become more competitive and consolidate their networks, many more companies will merge in the coming years,” he predicted.
“That should lead to the European telecoms industry playing a bigger role on the global stage. But competition has to be assured.”
Spain’s FACUA consumer lobby group had been outspoken in its criticism over the dropped plans.
“The reasons were totally absurd, and they just tried to protect the telecom companies’ interest at the expense of the common good,” a spokesman told The Local.
“Since 2007 the FACUA has been criticizing the high cost of addition fees which bring billionaire benfits for operators,” the spokesman added. “They cannot be abolished soon enough.”