TeliaSonera CEO compares data roaming prices to stealing

Lower prices on data roaming will benefit the whole industry, Lars Nyberg said.

On Thursday, operator TeliaSonera's CEO raged against the current cost of surfing using smartphones and laptops via mobile networks when abroad, while reducing what the company charges for data roaming in the Nordic and Baltic countries by about 90 percent.

"I find it unacceptable that an industry treats a market like that, said Lars Nyberg, president and CEO at TeliaSonera, during a conference call. "I understand, I don't mind making money, but I don't like to steal it."

TeliaSonera phone and laptop users will be able to travel to and from Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and pay 29 Swedish kronor (US$4.60) for up to 20MB or 59 kronor for 50MB, respectively. Previously, users had to pay about 22 kronor per megabyte, according to a spokeswoman.

The lower prices will have an effect on TeliaSonera's bottom line, but Nyberg firmly believes that the change will be a winning proposition for both users and company stockholders in the end. People will start using its services, instead of standing at the airport and reminding each other to turn off data roaming, he said.

About six months ago TeliaSonera started talking about what effect a 90 percent price cut would have on its bottom line, Nyberg said. He asked Håkan Dahlström, president of Mobility Services at TeliaSonera, and his team what the operator charged for a voice minute 15 years ago. It was about 10 times more than today, but the service nevertheless makes a lot more money now, according to Nyberg.

When subscribers are travelling in the Nordics and Baltics, TeliaSonera uses traffic steering mechanisms to ensure that as many users as possible access the Internet using their own networks, according to Dahlström. If a user still connects using another operators network, the operator will pay the higher costs that results in, he said.

Offering the same costs when users are travelling to a country where TeliaSonera doesn't have a network gets more complicated, because then it solely has to rely on deals with other operators. The prices operators pay each other are moving in the right direction, but slowly, according to Dahlström. Still, by the end of the year, TeliaSonera should be able to offer a package similar to what it is offering now in the Nordic and Baltic countries when subscribers are travelling in central and southern Europe.

TeliaSonera isn't the only operator that has cut prices on data roaming. Telenor, Orange, Deutsche Telekom have all lowered their prices, as well. Even more operators will now follow, according to Nyberg. Although it may look risky initially, it will be beneficial to the whole industry, he said.

In February, European Union Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes said that she still thinks data roaming in Europe is too expensive. Telecom operators must listen to their customers, and consumers feel there is still much room for improvement, particularly for data roaming, she said at the time.

The regulated wholesale price, which is what operators can charge each other, is being cut on July 1.

Also, the European Commission is due to present new plans for roaming regulation next month. The overarching goal is that the differences between roaming and national tariffs should approach zero by 2015.

On Thursday, TeliaSonera also presented a new company logotype.

Send news tips and comments to mikael_ricknas@idg.com

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