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Vodafone intros flat rates for Ireland

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Vodafone Ireland has greatly simplified roaming prices by launching flat-rate call charges for Europe and the UK.

The company, Ireland's biggest mobile operator, said on Wednesday that Irish Vodafone customers visiting the UK will now pay €0.59 per minute for any call to Ireland or within the UK. For Europe, in markets where customers can use a Vodafone network, consumers will pay €0.99 per minute. The new pricing applies to both contract and pre-paid customers and to mobile-to-mobile as well as mobile-to-fixed-line calls.

A spokesperson for Vodafone Ireland said the company had wanted to introduce a simplified billing structure for roaming for some time, but was prevented by pricing agreements set when Vodafone bought Mannesmann in 2000. The agreements expired in April this year.

Along with SFR in France, which is part-owned by Vodafone, and Vodafone UK, Vodafone Ireland is one of the first Vodafone networks to introduce flat roaming rates. In addition to the new rates for the UK and Europe, Vodafone Ireland has introduced a flat roaming rate of €1.99 per minute for prepaid customers roaming in Australia and €2.99 for roaming in South Africa and Malta.

"These new rates will undoubtedly make using a mobile phone abroad significantly easier, with the costs now being increasingly transparent for our customers, and will deliver substantial savings to Irish customers when travelling abroad," claimed Paul Donovan, CEO, Vodafone Ireland.

Roaming has, for years, been a contentious issue in Ireland, as customers often complained that the pricing system was complex. In some instances, customers returning to Ireland from a holiday or business trip have been surprised by the cost of calls.

In April, some of Europe's biggest mobile operators dodged the roaming bullet after the European Commission said that that its three-year enquiry into roaming charges would be delayed. This delay meant that UK and German mobile telecoms, such as mmO2, Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile, had temporally escaped the prospect of paying millions in competition fines. Although such levies were never guaranteed to be instituted by EU authorities, it was thought that Brussels had built a strong case against the firms.

The EU investigation, which covers all the mobile network operators in the UK and Germany, may not produce results until as late as August. The hold-up is due to European Competition Commissioner Mario Monti's difficulties in building a rock-solid case against the firms.

© ENN

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