Roaming fees in Europe cut in time for summer holidays

BRUSSELS (AFP) - Tourists within Europe can use their smartphones without fear of an outrageous bill waiting at home starting from this year's summer holidays, as the European Union is cutting maximum mobile data roaming rates by 36 per cent next week.

The new rules, which come into effect next Monday, mean that mobile data roaming within the EU will now be up to 91 per cent cheaper in 2013 than it was in 2007, the European Commission said in a statement on Thursday, billing its drive to cut prices as an effort "to be relevant to people's lives".

It will be "cheaper to use maps, watch videos, check e-mails and update social networks while travelling", it said.

Roaming downloads will now cost 45 euro cents (75 Singapore cents) per megabyte, phone calls will cost 24 euro cents a minute plus value-added tax and sending a text message will cost eight euro cents plus tax.

The most drastic change in mobile charges will be in Croatia - which becomes the EU's 28th member state next Monday.

The cost for data roaming there will be 15 times lower from July and calling elsewhere in the EU will be 10 times cheaper.

"Operators are free to offer cheaper rates, and some have already begun to remove roaming premiums altogether for voice and SMS," the European Commission said in its statement.