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Finnish mobile network operators ask to opt out of free EU-roaming rules

Although roaming charges for mobile network access across the EU will be slashed in the middle of June, Finland's three major mobile operators have asked local regulators for exemption from the new system. The operators told regulators the new rules would mean lost revenue and would lead to price increases for customers who don't use their mobile devices outside of Finland.

Pariskunta kännyköineen Pariisin Parc de la Villette'ssa.
File photo. Image: Etienne Laurent / EPA

The three major mobile network operators in Finland have requested a one-year exclusion from EU rules to eliminate EU-wide roaming charges.

Mobile network operators Telia, DNA and Elisa have reportedly sent requests to FICORA, the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority, for exemption from having to eliminate the roaming charges.

As the EU roaming rules were being hammered out, Finnish European MP Miapetra Kumpula-Natri says that Finland lobbied strongly for the ability for operators to opt out.

In order to be granted a year's exemption, Kumpula-Natri said that operators have to prove implementing them would cause more than three percent in revenue losses.

EU MP: It will be cheaper

But whether Finnish carriers are granted permission to continue charging the fees or not, Kumpula-Natri says consumers will benefit from the new EU rules, and will notice it in their monthly phone bills if they use EU networks while abroad.

"I can promise that it will be cheaper, but I hope it will become free to use mobile phones abroad," Kumpula-Natri said.

"Today the price cap is 50 euros plus VAT, and now it'll be 7.70 euros per gigabyte. The price of mobile data will go down by 85 percent," Kumpula-Natri said.

According to the rules, mobile phone operators across EU borders will charge each other for customers' network usage while abroad.

The new regulation will limit how much operators are able to charge each other for network usage. Regarding data, starting on June 15, operators will not be able to charge more than 7.70 euros per gigabyte, plus VAT.

No decision until middle of June

FICORA's deputy director Petri Makkonen says the authority is unable to take any action until the rules come into effect.

"It will be possible for us to make a decision on June 15th at the earliest. We will make an effort to have our decision ready at that time," Makkonen said.

According to an article published Monday in Brussels-based news outlet New Europe, a total of six EU-nation regulators have received applications from at least 11 mobile network operators making similar requests for exemption.

Mobile network operators in Estonia have already been granted the exception by local regulators, according to New Europe.

Unlimited data nearly ubiquitous in Finland

Finnish operators say there are far more mobile customers from Finland who travel around Europe and use the internet - as opposed to the other way around - making it a lopsided deal.

Another hurdle facing local operators is that subscribers in Finland are used to having unlimited, uncapped data, while operators in many other countries charge customers based on how much data is actually used, down to the megabyte.

Having access to unlimited data, subscribers from Finland have become accustomed to using a lot of it.

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