As we recently looked at in depth, mobile data roaming costs are being kept artificially high because operators simply have no incentive to reduce prices as everyone else charges the same. New proposals announced by the European Commission today could make things much cheaper by stimulating competition in the market.

At a press conference, European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes announced plans to allow European Union citizens to be able to select an alternative mobile provider solely for use when abroad. For the first time, operators would be forced to allow other companies to provide roaming services to their customers, and phones would automatically switch to the alternative network as soon as they began roaming without changing SIM card.

Meanwhile, price caps would be introduced to force operators to gradually cut roaming prices to (in Euros) 50 cents per megabyte, 24 cents per minute for calls made, 10 cents per minute for calls received and 10 cents for texts. These price caps would be in force by July 2014. Regulation would end in 2016, by which point the Commission hopes there will be enough competition in the market to keep prices low.

Kroes said that the new proposals, which will need to be approved by the European Union before being introduced, were designed to encourage newcomers to the market as well as stimulate incumbents.

A range of roaming solutions currently offer cheaper data abroad, such as Droam and Abroadband, but these require a separate SIM card or portable WiFi device. If approved, today’s proposals could make your phone much more useful when traveling around the continent, if you’re a European, at least.