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O2 and Telefonica Moviles are following in the footsteps of other mobile operators by slashing the cost of making and receiving calls when travelling abroad.

Spanish firm Telefonica's two mobile subsidiaries - O2 and Telefonica Moviles - announced new roaming packages known as "My Europe" on Thursday.

The move follows similar announcements from Vodafone and T-Mobile earlier this week in which the firms said they intend to cut the cost of making calls abroad. France's Telecom Orange also recently reduced the price it charges mobile phone users when roaming.

Although it could be tempting to be bowled over by the sudden generosity of the operators, it is worth noting that their altruism coincides with the publication of proposals by the European Commission which are aimed at reducing roaming tariffs within the EU. Nonetheless, the news that operators are finally about to cut the cost of calls made while abroad will no doubt be warmly welcomed by consumers.

Under the first "My Europe" plan, which is aimed primarily at holidaymakers, customers will be charged a new flat rate tariff of €0.59 per minute for making and receiving calls across Europe, regardless of what network they use when overseas. Previously, Irish post-pay customers would have been charged between €0.79 and €0.99 per minute, while pre-pay subscribers would have paid €0.99, excluding the UK and Northern Ireland.

The new flat rate tariff, which is being rolled out to customers in Ireland from 1 June, will be automatically applied to all pre and post-pay customers and will also apply to subscribers roaming in the US.

In addition, the mobile operators said they are intending to launch a "high roamer" service which will be available in Ireland from the first quarter of 2007.

The pricing plan, which is aimed at post-pay customers who travel abroad frequently, enables subscribers to select a country or group of countries from which calls can be made at prices that are comparable to domestic rates. In addition, customers will no longer be charged for any calls they receive while abroad.

"Today's announcement underlines our promise that the deal with Telefonica would rapidly bring real benefits to customers," 02 chaiman and chief executive officer Peter Erskine said in a statement. "We have designed the service to make it as easy as possible for customers to understand by not penalising users who roam onto other networks, by offering the same in-country call rates across Europe and, for high roamers, scrapping the charge levied by all operators in the past for receiving calls when abroad," he added.

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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