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EU presses telecoms sector for more reforms to lower prices

The European Commission on Thursday said that telecom operators and regulators were not doing enough to slash prices and improve services in Europe's telecoms sector.

While consumers benefited from growth in the multi-million euro market, further reforms were needed, the commission said. „More competition, a more consistent and speedy application of remedies and regulators that are more independent are necessary,” the EU executive said in its annual report on the EU's sector, worth some €290 billion ($38 billion) in annual revenues. EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said the commission was considering a „functional separation” of telecoms services and networks businesses as a measure to boost competition.

The report said that prices for a three-minute fixed telephone call have gone down from €0.41 to €0.25. It also said that the EU now has more mobile phones than citizens. „With 478.4 million mobile phones in use, penetration in Europe is now at 103% of the population,” the report said. The penetration rates are highest in Luxembourg (171%), Italy (134%) and Lithuania (133%). The Netherlands and Denmark now have the highest percentage of people worldwide with access to broadband internet - in both countries at 29%. The EU-wide rate is at 15.7%.

EU telecoms ministers earlier this year agreed to cap mobile telephone roaming fees, which costumers have to pay for making and receiving phone calls abroad. Reding wants to have a regulation in force by June to protect holidaymakers from high charges this summer. The commission has repeatedly called on Europe's telecom operators to cut roaming costs and insists that industry has failed to bring them down through self-regulation. Some 147 million Europeans use roaming services and pay about €8.5 billion roaming fees every. Roaming rates vary but can account for up to 40% of the price Europeans pay for using their mobile phones elsewhere in the EU. Such „roaming charges” provide firms with up to 15% of their income, analysts estimate. (