ROAMING IS FULLY ABOLISHED
The law on abolishing roaming in the Russian Federation came into force on 1 June
FAS initiated the efforts to abolish roaming back in November 2016. FAS Working Group was formed that arrived to a conclusion on the importance of applying the fair roaming principles in this area to create non-discriminatory conditions on the telecommunications markets, bring the tariffs to roaming services to a justified level close to the “home region”. Briefly, it means the “in roaming – like at home” principle.
FAS offered communications operators to do this work themselves; they, however, failed to do it.
On 10 April 2017, FAS opened a case against the “Big Four” for fixing and maintaining monopolistically high prices for communications services in the national roaming (providing roaming communications services using networks of other operators), particularly in Crimea and Sevastopol.
“In the course of the investigation, the “Big Four” operators filed a petition in December 2017 to voluntarily abolish violations of the antimonopoly law. As a result of eliminating the violations, subscriber tariffs in the national roaming reduced considerably, the 2,950,000 RUB of fines were paid to the budget”, informed Elena Zaeva.
Depending on the services, cost reduction was on average 2 - 10 times across operators for subscribers in networks of other communication providers. For example, the costs of sms-messages decreased to 2 RUB per 1 sms from 3.90 – 4.90 RUB per 1 sms. The cost of voice connection is on average 2 RUB/min against the previous 9-10 RUB/min that subscribers had to pay. The cost of data transmission dropped down from 9.90 to 1-3 RUB per Mb.
Deputy Head of FAS Anatoly Golomolzin pointed out: “For us it was important to enter the summer 2018 vacations season with new, reduced rates. Our analysis of the scope of communications services consumed by subscribers who visited Crimea in 2017 and 2018 resort seasons from April to September) showed that the number of subscribers increased by 38%, mobile internet consumption grew by 60% and providers’ income increase under the frame of inter-operator agreements was 31%”.
“FAS forecasts on a favourable effect of the measures for reducing subscriber tariffs in the national roaming to the level comparable with the home region are confirmed: the number of active subscribers and communications services consumption increased, and the providers revenue went up. FAS finds that it is necessary to undertake further efforts in order to continue reducing inter-operator roaming rates and accordingly subscriber tariffs in travels to Crimea and Sebastopol”, commented Anatoly Golomolzin.
In July 2017, FAS issued a warning to the four operators to liquidate the so-called “intra-network roaming”, which means increasing prices for communications services in comparison with the conditions in the home region when subscribers travel outside the home region to other parts of Russia, remaining in the provider’s network. The operators were asked to change all valid tariff plans by August 2017, excluding the unreasonable price difference when subscribers are in the “guest” regions. “T2Mobile” Ltd. announced its readiness to execute the warning in full.
Due to the failure to execute the warning, antimonopoly cases were opened against “Megafon” PJSC, “MTS” PJSC on 5 March 2018 and against “VimpelCom” PJSC – on 12 March 2018. During the investigations, the operators – “Megafon” PJSC, “MTS” PJSC and “VimpelCom” PJSC reported on voluntary elimination of the alleged violations of the antimonopoly law.
The prices for sms, data transmission and outbound voice connections in travelling were set at the same level as in the “home region”, i.e., reduced from 2.5 to 10 times. The operators also made changes to the “package” tariff plans, according to which packages of minutes, sms and data transmission are spent from the pre-paid package when travelling outside the home region. In August 2018, the operators announced abolishing payment for inbound voice connections in their networks for travelling in Russia.
“The situation must be made irreversible. 2018-2020 National Plan for Developing Competition in Russia, approved by the an order of the President of the Russian Federation, underlines eliminating unreasonable difference in the rates for mobile communications services t in travels in Russia (roaming) as one of the priorities for developing competition under the conditions of digitalization of the economy”, stated Deputy Head of FAS Anatoly Golomolzin.
To execute the Presidential order, the Government approved the Road Map for developing competition. The “Telecommunications” section of the Road Map provides for drafting the Federal Law on abolishing roaming, measures aimed at optimizing the procedure for building, connecting and interaction between communications networks, reducing the risks of competition restriction, creating conditions for competition on the market of services for connection and traffic transfer and to reduce prices for communications services by optimizing the methods of traffic transfer.
The Federal Law came into force on 1 June. It extrapolates the fair roaming principles not only to the companies that have the dominant position but also to all mobile communications operators. The requirement for free inbound voice connections in the national roaming is also introduced.
“Now people who visit Crimea or other regions of Russia, where their operator does not have own communications networks, do not need to worry receiving calls, since it will be free-of-charge”, concluded Anatoly Golomolzin.