Europe Eyes High Cost of Mobile Telephony

BRUSSELS (03/20/2000) - A trade association report that says Europeans are paying too much for mobile telecommunications services could fuel European Union efforts to make the sector more competitive.

Reducing the cost of mobile telephony is just one of the European Union's objectives in making the telecommunications sector more competitive, Per Haugaard, a European Commission spokesman on information technology, said today.

The statement was made in reaction to published news accounts about a report by the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA) alleging that mobile phone callers were overcharged by roughly US$4.5 billion annually.

"We are concerned by all aspects of telecom policy," Haugaard said, explaining that later this year the Commission will come forward with a range of recommendations and legislative proposals designed to increase competition in the entire telecommunications sector, thereby bringing prices down.

The U.K.-based ECTA will publish the report later today or tomorrow to show that in the EU callers from fixed lines to mobile networks pay 40 to 70 percent higher than the real costs of routing these calls to the mobile operator, according to press reports. The ECTA declined to comment immediately on the reports.

The report could provide more ammunition for the Commission as it processes a complaint filed last November by MCI WorldCom Inc. alleging that telecom operators in Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands gouged consumers with mobile prices that are up to 66 percent more than would be the case if real competition existed in the European market.

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