LEAVE YOUR PHONE AT HOME: WHY EU ROAMING CHARGES WILL ONLY INCREASE FOR UK CONSUMERS

British consumers have become accustomed to using their mobile phones without incurring any additional charges while visiting the EU. Prominent Brexiters promised that free roaming in the EU for UK consumers would continue after Brexit. But three of the four major UK mobile network operators – Vodafone, EE, and Three – have recently announced the return of roaming charges. 

The proposed charges are modest, and The Economist argues they will actually make the UK mobile market fairer – because consumers who do not roam will no longer have to cover the costs of those who do.

There is a real risk, though, that wholesale charges will increase for UK operators and converge with the wholesale charges for other non-EEA countries. EU operators could charge UK operators more, knowing that UK operators could once again pass on higher EU wholesale charges directly to consumers through retail roaming charges.

Operators will once again be able to act on their incentives to set high prices for reciprocal traffic, to justify higher retail prices – in Poland, for example, the major operators have already signaled that they will charge consumers for roaming in the UK in the future.

Finally, retail roaming charges mean that UK consumers will reduce their use of roaming to some extent – for example, by relying on less convenient alternatives like Wi-Fi hotspots when traveling – making it less attractive for foreign operators to compete for UK operators’ roaming traffic. Collectively, these factors may lead to higher wholesale charges. That would cause even higher retail charges, as UK mobile operators would try to maximize profits from those customers who will continue to use roaming services even at high rates.

[ > Center for European Reform — September 20, 2021 ]

The Launch of the Haifa Bayport Terminal: Economic and Security Considerations

September 1, 2021, marked the official start of operations at the Haifa Bayport Terminal. In recent years, Israeli media publications have raised concerns about the port’s operation by a Chinese state-owned company, particularly in view of the growing rivalry between China and the United  States. The official opening of the port is an opportunity to revisit the issue.

In a nutshell, the port operator is a private Israeli company, indeed owned by a  Chinese company, yet most of its employees are Israelis, apart from a few Chinese management staff.

As for the concerns about disruption to port activity during emergencies or exertion of pressure on the Israeli government, the probability and severity of these risks appear to be limited:

– Bayport will not be owned by its operator;

– Bayport is subject to Israeli law and in emergencies must operate according to the instructions of the Israeli security authorities, just like Israel’s other ports;

– if the operator does not comply with these terms, it risks committing a breach of contract and the Government of Israel will be fully entitled to replace it.

As for espionage risks: for purposes of line-of-sight observation and reception, the Bayport Terminal is no nearer to the Israeli naval base than many civilian buildings in Haifa, yet its location on the water line does indeed offer the potential for gathering acoustic intelligence (signatures of vessels and especially submarines), a potential that exists in principle in transiting commercial vessels as well.

[ > Institute for National Security Studies — September 12, 2021 ]

AUSTRALIAN INVESTMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION 2021

Over the past two decades, investment in Australian universities has grown almost without pause. In 2020, pandemics, border closures and government reforms of student funding arrangements have resulted in the higher education sector facing some of its greatest challenges.

Australian university profits plummeted by $1.6 billion to just $669 million. 15 of the 38 universities included in the analysis reported a deficit in 2020. Most of the universities that didn’t post a deficit barely broke even.

Almost all the sector’s surpluses were concentrated in Australia’s three largest universities: 

– Monash University ($267 million);

– The University of Melbourne ($178 million);

– The University of Sydney ($107 million).

This suggests that it is the smaller and less prestigious universities that are finding the conditions the toughest. Without further support, parts of the university sector are likely to face very difficult choices that will mean further cuts to staffing, courses and research.

The impact of the pandemic on international students remains one of the biggest issues facing the sector. Border closures impact the ability of international students to return to Australia, and for new international students to enrol, disrupting a significant income source for universities. In the first six months of 2021, international student enrollments at public higher education institutions fell at an annualized rate of between 20% and 24%. If this rate were to continue, this roughly equates to about $2 billion to $2.4 billion in annual revenue across the university sector.

[ > Mitchell Institute for Education and Health Policy — August 30, 2021 ]