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3 signs up 1m mobile broadband users, attacks roaming rates

25 июля 2008

High data roaming prices are stifling the market, according to mobile operator 3, which on Thursday announced that it has signed up one million broadband customers in Europe.

Passing this milestone shows that there is demand for mobile broadband, with customers using it to both supplement and replace their fixed connections, the operator said, but it is still too expensive for customers to use abroad.

"Typical retail roaming prices are literally hundreds of times what customers expect to pay domestically. A European consumer might pay around one euro cent per megabyte at home, yet pay a premium of 360 times that simply to cross a border," said Christian Salbaing, managing director European Telecoms at Hutchison Whampoa, 3's parent company, in a statement.

But while 3 has long called for regulatory intervention in the market, not everyone agrees.

Earlier this week at a Westminster eForum event in London, Tom Phillips, chief of government and regulatory affairs at the GSM Association, said the mobile market should be given time to sort itself out when it comes to pricing.

"Markets, not politicians, set prices," Phillips said, adding that while most other industries have experienced annual price inflation, the mobile sector repeatedly shows price declines.

Salbaing however insists that, "the difference between domestic and roaming data rates is far greater than with voice, only wholesale action can put an end to charges that are sometimes hundreds of times greater than our customers pay at home."

Also speaking at Monday's eForum, David Stewart, director of competition policy at Ofcom, said the debate about whether or not prices should be regulated is currently polarised between consumer advocacy on one side, and the industry on the other. The latter is "very anxious" and wants to set prices itself, he said.

He warned however that until now the last option has proved to lead to "politically unacceptable prices".

3 allows customers to roam onto other 3 networks overseas at domestic prices, which "means 3 customers pay as little as a fraction of a euro cent to access the Internet abroad," the company said.

Elsewhere it charges around £3 per megabyte "based primarily on the wholesale rate charged," the telco said.

3 launched mobile broadband in Europe late last year, and services are available in the UK, Ireland, Italy, Sweden, Denmark and Austria.

Источник: Total Telecom

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