EU Pushes For Per-Second Wireless Billing

Viviane Reding, the European Union’s Telecommunications Commissioner, is our new wireless hero. She’s demanding that wireless carriers in Europe begin billing on a per-second basis rather than per-minute, because “at the retail level, the difference between billed and actual minutes appears to be typically around 20 percent.”

She’s also threatening to place caps on fees for SMS services and data plans if carriers don’t cut their rates.

Compare that to the U.S., where as recently as last week a lone congresswoman had to ask three national carriers when they were going to honor their promise to pro-rate ETFs, and AT&T Mobility wouldn’t even answer her.

(Thanks to Sanjay, who says that in France there are already some carriers offering per-second billing.)

“EU wireless regulatory body looks into mobile phone billing – European Commission wants per-second mobile phone billing” [IntoMobile]
(Photo: World Economic Forum)


Edit Your Comment

  1. llcooljabe says:

    My first cell phone was by the minute billing. Clearnet? Maybe? in canada. Can’t even remember. They’re now Telus.

    Just thought I’d share.

  2. Bladefist says:

    per second makes sense and will dig into some of cell phone companies profits, so dont expect this to happen.

  3. jaydez says:

    I hope they dont do that. The last thing I want to do is walk intot he store and the salesguy tells me a plan comes with 30,000 daytime seconds. I’d have a hell of a time trying to do the math in my head. Personally I think they should round up AND down. If the call is less than, oh lets say, 20 seconds then they bill you zero minutes. If it is longer than they you pay for the minute.

  4. less_is_best says:

    I lived without a cell phone up until just a few months ago. Alas, I now am forced to own one. I hate these always needing to be charged beasts of burden. On the other hand I did get to drop my landline which took money away from Comcast. That made me happy!

    Comcast = DOPES!

  5. savvy9999 says:

    Cell phone usage should be handled like one tax forms– add everything (dollars and cents, minutes and seconds) along the way in full, but at the end of the form or bill drop the cents/minutes.

    This round-up PER CALL bullshit is total fraud. I would imagine the freeload profit to cell companies is astronomical. Just like in Office Space, taking the 1/10ths of pennies from everyone = $millions for a select few.

    I’m just surprised that no US carrier has yet to implement this, in order to try to snare slim market share. Saw it with rollover minutes, saw it prorated ETFs, seeing it somewhat with unlocking phones… maybe this is next.

  6. itsallme says:

    Better yet, just do away charging per any time unit, just lower the cost of the unlimited plans to something reasonable.

  7. dorkins says:

    Hey, if it’s European, it’s got to be good, right?

    Unless it’s … well, never mind.

  8. SpenceMan01 says:

    My first cell phone was with Aerial Communications (later bought out by VoiceStream, then T-Mobile). All of their plans were per-second billing, and the first minute of incoming calls were free. I had 100 minutes for $20/month and it was great.

  9. Angryrider says:

    Heh, now they’re trying to make cellular telephone like regular telephones. Here come the surcharges! Now it’s $50 to actually have a connection to the network.

  10. jstonemo says:

    I loved Aerial Communications too. Then the big boys had to buy them out and squash the idea of per-second billing. It’s a conspiracy I tell you!

  11. krom says:

    @jaydez: Your solution would be mathematically equivalent to per-second billing, actually, at least if it were applied to past usage compared to per-second billing.

    OTOH once it was put in place, people would start gaming the billing and keep all their calls to X minutes and 25 seconds, so as to keep getting free 25 seconds. And what happens to calls under 30 seconds… do they just become free? They won’t like that.

  12. Verdigris says:

    Calls under 30 seconds ARE free for any major wireless carrier. That’s why cell phones are only set to ring 4 times before going to voicemail, to prevent the person being called getting charged for a minute they didn’t use.

    Billing by the second makes sense to any consumer, and hopefully we can get this instituted over on our end of the ocean… yeah right

  13. hornrimsylvia says:

    Keep in mind kids, that Europe heavily utilizes pre-paid cell phones. They don’t have as many “unlimited” plans when it comes to that department. That would defeat the purpose of being pre-paid!

    They are really listening to this lady over there. She must be doing something right.

  14. Topcat says:

    Per-second billing is one of the reasons why I constantly stick with Fido in Canada.
    @jaydez: It doesn’t work like that- they still quote you minutes. When they bill you, however, the airtime you are billed for is the sum of your actual usage to the second, with individual calls rounded to the second (rather than minute).

    As possibly the lowest-cost (and frequently reliable, as I have had few complaints in 5 years of service) national carrier in Canada (and I realize that they are wholly owned by Rogers), it’s a fairly good deal, even at our exorbitant communications prices.

  15. mike says:

    I don’t know if I feel the same way. I think if companies billed by the second, prices would go up and may confuse people. Since you wouldn’t need as many minutes, the amount of minutes you get would lower, while raising the price.

    I think I would much prefer savvy9999 method: round to the nearest minute, not round UP.

  16. AD8BC says:

    This is a good idea, not like the REST of the european cellphone costs…

    In England, for example, cellphones have their own area code. For any call to a cellphone, regardless of the cellphone plan, the airtime is billed to the caller. (This was five years ago, it may have changed since)… when I was working in England I had a prepaid cellphone over there. When my wife would call me from the States we would be billed (through AT&T Long Distance) the airtime… even though I was on a special 4 cent a minute plan for calls to England from home, the added fee was about 25 cents a minute.

    This would have made sense in the day when cell minutes cost a buck or two EACH (sure, I wouldn’t want to be billed for some joker to call me on my baghone with an unimportant call) but nowadays with the cell plans that we have, it makes little sense.

  17. Veeber says:

    I heard this story on Marketplace. Apparently they already charge by the second because so many people were making calls, but hanging up before the other party would pickup so that they wouldn’t have to pay.


  18. taka2k7 says:

    I’m in favor this one on both sides of the pond.

    I’m still trying to figure out why I get charged for 2 minutes when I make a 53 second call on AT&T go phone. Happens about 20% of the time– call is rounded up and then one more minute is added.

    It’s not a huge amount as I don’t call that often, but it is annoying. If they do this to all their customers then I’m open to a class action lawsuit against AT&T (okay add this to the hundreds of other reasons to sue those f$%#ers.)

    But I digress…. go per second calling!!

  19. taka2k7 says:

    @Chris Vee:
    Okay, am I only one, or should the seconds start when the call is connected (i.e. “hello”)? Sure there is a cost to the carrier when waiting for a pick-up, but given all the dropped calls, I’d say this was fair.

  20. sixsnowflakes says:

    What a great idea. A penny per second is 60 cents per minute. Ooh, and we should totally get rid of the penny. Then we could pay 5 cents per second. $3 per minute, awesome!

  21. ThatRandomGuy says:

    Per Second Billing has been standard in Jamaica with major cell phone companies for over 5 years now. It’s awesome. I was shocked when I came to the US. Complete rip-off. In addition to that, all incoming calls are free with every company.