MEPs have voted for steeper cuts to mobile phone roaming charges, in a move that defied calls by the chief executives of Vodafone and France Telecom for a moratorium on revenue-hitting telecoms regulation.

Politicians from the European Parliament agreed to lower the cost of making phone calls when abroad by up to two-thirds within two years, going further than a proposal initially floated by the European Commission last summer.

Now the EU Commission and Parliament must thrash out a final plan with 27 EU governments to approve the new caps before June, when current roaming regulation expires.

The move marks the start of a third round of regulation from the EU to cut charges when people make calls from outside their home country. These additional costs have long been opposed by consumer groups.

Such roaming fees are a cash cow for telecoms operators, bringing in up to 7% of revenue. Stories of consumers being hit by huge bills after trips abroad have made roaming an emblematic issue for Brussels.

At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, telecoms executives accused Europe's regulators of sapping the industry of much needed capital, as it faces demands for investment in new, faster, fixed and mobile networks.

"Now is the time to invest. It is not the time to regulate," France Telecom's Stephane Richard told the conference.

Vittorio Colao, CEO of Vodafone, used a speech on Monday to say Europe risked crippling economic growth with continued regulatory intervention.

"What does Europe need? Does Europe need investment? Does Europe need employment or does Europe need mobile termination rate cuts," he said. "We really need to stop this auto-pilot regulation mentality."

EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes, who has steered much of the telecoms regulation, met top industry executives behind closed doors in Barcelona on Monday. She defended her regulatory approach, hitting back at the industry criticism.

"Message to Vittorio and Vodafone: I call your bluff, and indeed do not respond well to threats. I take the side of the Vodafone customer," Kroes said in a statement.

"Remember, if consumers lose their fear of using their smartphones and tablets when travelling across Europe, operators will benefit as well."

Today's European Parliament's decision paved the way for a lowering of charges on calls made while abroad to 25 cent per minute by June, from a maximum 35 cent now. That cap would fall to 15 cent in 2014 if the proposals win the support of EU governments.

In addition, companies will have to allow their customers to switch providers within one working day when abroad before 2014.

The draft rules include proposals to cap EU data roaming charges for the first time. The parliament voted for a 20 cent per megabyte cap, while the Commission set the bar at 50 cent.

Kroes, who advocates the elimination of roaming charges, will not need much convincing to support the steeper cuts.

In a speech in Barcelona on Monday, she reiterated support for a 'pick-and-mix' of service providers for users wanting to surf the Internet when abroad.