The roaming service remains among the most unused ones for our people. The reasons why Kosovars are reluctant to plug their phone into the networks of countries they visit are numerous, but all concern the prices or quality of services.
The number of mobile phone users in Kosovo has reached 1 582 042, for anyone who continues to use their phones even when outside the state borders, the issue of roaming services remains problematic. Today’s visitor’s communication requirements are increasingly directed towards the use of integrated voice, SMS and internet calling services. To these visitors, mobile phone operators do not offer genuine communication packages when they are abroad. Operators fail to even inform their users about service prices when they are roaming.
According to European Commission data, up until this year the price of a roaming call was approximately 3 to 4 times higher than that of in-country calls, SMS sending was 2.5 times more expensive, while the internet service was 25 to 35 times more expensive in the network as roamers. For users from Kosovo, the cost of a roaming call is approximately 10 to 40 times more expensive than in-country calls, while the internet service is roughly 100 times more expensive in the roaming network. The reasons for the high prices of roaming services are related to the lack of regulation of this market segment and the small impact of purchasing power. Users usually choose their mobile phone service provider depending on their bids: prepaid or monthly payment. The roaming service, although it is available to all mobile phone users, is not mentioned / included in any of these offers. Even in rare cases, when users are aware of roaming service prices, they neglect it because of the low frequency of use of this service compared to domestic calls. Currently in Kosovo roaming service prices are set according to business plans and policies of the operator, which are not necessarily in the best interest of subscribers. Furthermore, operators provide the minimum information about this service.
Comparison of offered roaming prices
Current prices remain high and, above all, presented in confusing form for users. LENS has broken down the information provided mainly through the websites of mobile operators in order to simplify the presentation of these prices and to present them in a comparable way that allows observing the differences that are present. Below are given the tables for some of the most commonly visited countries by Kosovars.
How are roaming tariffs set?
Technically, the price of a call when the user is roaming depends on a number of factors: the call origination price in the visited country, the national or international call transfer price, the termination price (completion) of the call in the visited country, the cost of the roaming service, the final (minority) cost set by the home operator. The State Regulatory Authority (ARKEP) even though does not have the authority to adjust the initial prices charged by the visited country, may set a rate for the maximum final start or end of call price from the country visited in the parent network, as well as charging rates in case of receiving calls to the visited network; which significantly affects the final price. Further, ARKEP may also affect charging rates applied by operators within the roaming services for user of third-party roaming networks.
It should be borne in mind that in this way the ARKEP’s impact remains limited to the regulation of retail prices (a minority) by which an operator may charge the customer but in no way achieves the goal of creating a viable competition within the roaming market. Given the cross-border nature of the roaming service, it is difficult to contemplate an in-country arrangement without agreements between the regulatory authorities of many countries. An example of this is the market regulation within the European Union, which in 2007 brought into force the Roaming Regulation in order to solve the problem of lack of competition in the market for these services. This initiative since the beginning aimed at extinction of multiple charging roaming, since September 30, 2007 was enforced by setting the maximum threshold for roaming tariffs which should further decrease every year. For now, the pricing threshold for operators within the EU for calls is 0.19 € / min and 0.20 € / 1Mb internet. The new regulation, which has passed in Parliament and is expected to be adopted by the European Commission, foresees that all calls within the EU territory be charged in the same way as within the network, which makes roaming charges illegal since December 15, 2015.
LENS after the long-term monitoring of developments in the segment of roaming mobile services has these tips and recommendations:
– Operators should be obliged to inform customers of the applicable tariffs within the network of the visited country.
-The offers for roaming services shall be clear and comprehensible, with the specification of the time limits and quantitative limits in force.
-ARKEP should set limits on roaming charges, following the example of market regulation within the EU.
-ARKEP should monitor for non-compliance or non-disclosure of roaming service providers’ offers.
-ARKEP should be involved in raising awareness of users about their rights and the procedures for filing complaints.
– Consumers should articulate their complaints about this service, initially to their operator and to ARKEP, in order to increase the quality of services.