0 Theme: Consumer protection Network Tariffs and Choice Author: May 13, 2015

Innovate, invent, collaborate for a Connected Europe

Few days ago, the regulators in Belgium and Luxembourg announced an agreement between them that will allow a telecom operator from Luxembourg, JOIN Experience, in collaboration with a Belgian telecom operator, BASE Company in this case, to offer complete mobile telecommunications services in Belgium without additional roaming costs for calls, text messages or mobile Internet in Luxembourg.

In Belgium, JOIN Experience is an MVNO which uses the BASE Company network. In Luxembourg, it is also a full MVNO which uses the Post Luxembourg network. JOIN Experience would like to couple Belgian mobile numbers with Luxembourg-based SIM cards. Using their SIM card from Luxembourg, Belgian JOIN Experience customers will be able to phone, send text messages and surf at a Belgian rate, whether they are in Luxembourg or Belgium. If these customers are in another country, they can use roaming based on the attractive rates defined in JOIN’s European offers.

JOIN Experience may possibly become an MVNO in other countries such as France, the Netherlands and Germany, in a future phase. If the regulators in these different countries agree to conclude agreements similar to the agreement concluded between the regulators in Belgium and Luxembourg, it may then be possible to couple French, Dutch or German numbers with Luxembourg-based SIM cards. Belgian JOIN Experience customers will therefore be able to phone, send text messages and surf at the national rates of the country they are visiting. Belgian customers will thus be able to choose whether to use their Belgian number or another national number everywhere, depending on the country they are in (Germany, France, etc.).

Real progress for cross-border consumers

Luxembourg is surrounded by borders which you can cross in less than an hour. There are many people who cross the border between Belgium, Germany, France or the Netherlands.

And it is a similar situation in Belgium: we are a country full of borders. Furthermore, being the capital of Europe means that Brussels welcomes travellers from the four corners of the world every day. This is one of the reasons why BASE Company, as a Belgian company, is particularly sensitive to this problem. Allowing consumers and professional customers to cross the borders of Member States using an integrated solution (a single SIM card), which means they won’t have to worry whether their rates will increase as soon as they enter a new Member State, or whether they will receive a huge mobile Internet bill, seems obvious to us from the perspective of a connected Europe. The agreement between the regulators from Belgium and Luxembourg is a first decisive step in this direction. We hope that it will be followed by other similar agreements with the regulators from other Member States and other operators.

A partnership based on a long-standing practice

As we often say: “1 + 1 = 3”. BASE Company has long believed in creating partnerships with new virtual operators by renting out their network to them. In BASE Company’s opinion, this helps to intensify the dynamics that exist in the mobile telecommunications sector with the release of new offers and new products. This opening of the market creates innovation and richness. A virtuous circle, especially in the case of JOIN Experience in the niche cross-border professional market. This stimulates the market and pulls it upwards.

Towards a roaming-free Europe?

A SIM card with a European number doesn’t exist. However, through bilateral agreements between the different European regulators and a network of MVNOs, it would be possible, in theory, to sell SIM cards with 28 numbers. Again, in theory, this would allow European consumers to phone, send text messages and surf at their national rate. Still in theory, roaming would become obsolete.

However, between what could be and what is, there is the fact of the matter. The implementation of a roaming-free Europe (or “Roam Like at Home”) is a complicated task. On the one hand, wholesale rates for roaming are very different depending on the country. On the other hand, wholesale rates for access to mobile networks as an MVNO are also very different from one country to another.

In any case, the agreement between the regulators in Belgium and Luxembourg is a first in Europe, and BASE Company is proud to take part in the implementation of this future connected Europe, through this partnership with JOIN Experience. This is just the beginning of a long regulatory process in Europe and among the Member States that will allow similar experiences to bloom. However, it is a promising start that is opening a new chapter for the mobile telecommunications sector in Europe.

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