There could soon be more money in the pockets of millions of European travelers abroad after the European Commission proposed a ban this week on cellular telephone roaming charges for European customers.  Instead of roaming charges, the Commission is attempting to force wireless providers to institute flat rate charges for phone calls. The Commission is attempting to achieve this through a series of “airline-style alliances” in countries where wireless companies do not own a network. The Commission is mandating that this alliance include an area of the European Union that would cover at least 85 percent of the European Union’s population across 21 of the current 27 Member States, a total of nearly 425 million people.

By contrast, customers in the United States, as well as many  nations around the rest of the world, are still charged billions in roaming charges every year when they travel internationally. For example, AT&T charges $1.50 in pay-per-minute for U.S.-based customers calling in Europe, as compared to a $0.10 per minute rate under the AT&T GoPhone domestic plan.

U.S. consumers would be able to reduce these charges by buying one of AT&T’s international call packages for Europe that were announced last November, which start at 30 minutes of talk time for $30 per month before incurring the pay-per-minute charge. AT&T also recommends buying an unlocked cell phone and buying a local prepaid SIM card.

This would make the European Union the first large block of nations to agree to end the antiquated practice of charging users of another cell network when calling from outside their coverage area.