Could Google and Apple launch EU roaming services?

Google and Apple could be the biggest winners of a shake-up of European data roaming regulations, according to a telecoms analyst.

Could Google and Apple launch EU roaming services?

The European Parliament finally rubber stamped proposals for a cap on data tariffs, with a top rate of €0.70 per MB coming into effect on 1 July and falling to €0.20 by 2014.

The regulations had been widely expected to be approved, but are now on track to come into effect this summer.

The EU believes the data-pricing changes should benefit families by €226 on a one-week holiday and business users could make savings of more than £1,000 a year, but the shake-up could have further implications.

Offering their users a data plan – via an app store – would clearly be an attractive proposition

Among the targets laid out by European officials is the concept of virtual network operators offering pan-European roaming services, but analysts believe the move could benefit bigger phone companies such as Apple and Android-maker Google more than smaller start-ups.

“Roaming is an extremely complex business and there will need to be new investment in mobile networks to allow new players to provide roaming services,” said Mark Newman, chief research officer at Informa Telecoms and Media.

“The cost of these network upgrades and the mechanisms by which these new players are allowed into the market have yet to be agreed.”

According to Informa, Apple and Google may look to cash in on the market once new rules come into effect in July 2014 to allow consumers to buy their national and roaming services from different providers on the same number.

“Apple and Google may be tempted into the market… smartphone vendors are constantly looking to develop new services, features and functionality that allow them to keep up their prices and to differentiate themselves from their competitors,” said Newman.

“Offering their users a data plan – via an app store – that allows them to use their favourite services while abroad at a much lower price than that offered by their home network would clearly be an attractive proposition.”

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