EU Roaming Explained Part 2 – Creating a Digital Marketplace

Ciara O'Reilly
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On: 15 Jun 2016
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Note: this post was published in June 2016. For a more recent post on EU Roaming, see:


How will the removal of roaming surcharges help drive innovation in Irish businesses?

In June 2017, EU legislation that will end additional mobile roaming charges for those travelling among member states will come into force. If you have read my first blog on this topic, you’ll already know that from next year there will be no surcharge for using your phone and mobile broadband dongle while travelling in the EU. Instead, your usage, whether calls, data, or text messages, will simply be deducted from your domestic monthly package. This is, of course, great news for businesses and will help to reduce overheads – especially for those travelling to the EU frequently for business. Companies who do so can expect to see their roaming bills disappear as their domestic contracts will extend to the entire EU.

The Digital Single Market (DSM)

While the EU Commission was principally concerned with reducing the cost of travel among member states, it does have a wider objective in mind. It believes that eliminating roaming costs will help the region to create a Digital Single Market (DSM). What is a DSM? The EU describes it as an environment where “…the free movement of persons, services and capital is ensured and where the individuals and businesses can seamlessly access and exercise online activities under conditions of fair competition, and a high level of consumer and personal data protection, irrespective of their nationality or place of residence.” Simply put, it will see the 28 national markets become one digitally, so that businesses, consumers and Governments in member states can access online content and digital tools in the same way without incurring further costs.

The DSM aims to open up digital opportunities for people and business and enhance Europe’s position as a world leader in the digital economy. A lofty aim indeed. Yet creating a DSM will provide businesses with the confidence to launch products across the territory, safe in the knowledge that they are able to compete fairly and freely.

The challenge currently is that each member state has (or is developing) individual legislation that governs the way online content and tools are accessed. By legislating to prevent different treatment of data, the EU hopes to avoid further fragmentation of telecoms regulation in Europe. Clearly having this enshrined in EU law is a good thing, but what does all this mean for businesses here in Ireland?

A Level Playing Field

Preventing service providers from favouring one company’s content over another means halting the creation of a two tier internet where the big payers get the best service. So, if you’re a digital start-up looking to push your technology (particularly apps) across the EU, you’ll be able to do so without the worry of your users incurring additional costs outside of their domestic plan. According to the EU, a DSM is “…very important for start-up businesses that commercialise their products and services via the internet and need to be able to compete on an equal footing with larger players.”

For Ireland’s companies doing business in Europe, the creation of a single digital market means freedom to access communication tools without bias – whether that’s a simple email, a 10 minute video call, a 30 minute media stream or instant access to online collaboration tools.

Increased Innovation

The DSM aims to generate opportunities for increased innovation. Since companies here in Ireland are able to freely communicate with those across the region, it’s hoped that it will create an environment of increased collaboration and innovation.

Flexibility

Cross border portability gives users temporary access to content when travelling. The way that we consume content has changed. According to research, it is deemed important by 60% of young Europeans to be able to travel with their content purchased in their domestic country. Allowing them to do so without fear of increased costs should help increase subscription rates and online purchases.

The phased approach to ending roaming charges across the EU has helped both the industry and businesses make the changes necessary to deliver a digital single market. For businesses, this is the ideal opportunity to really go after new or developing markets and feel like a single trading nation.