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UK and Ireland welcome roaming cuts

Operators slash costs ahead of EU legislation

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Minister for Communications Noel Dempsey has praised Irish mobile operators for introducing new tariffs designed at reducing roaming costs in Ireland and the UK.

Following a meeting held on Thursday between the minister and his Northern Ireland counterpart, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Marie Eagle, MP, it was confirmed that all of the UK and Ireland's mobile phone operators are now offering reduced tariffs for customers roaming between the two territories.

The announcement follows the decision by Meteor to introduce cheaper roaming rates between the UK and Ireland two weeks ago. Other Irish mobile operators, 02, Vodafone and Three had previously brought in cheaper tariffs in March 2006.

Speaking on Thursday, Minister Dempsey said he was aware of the initiatives undertaken by mobile phone operators in going further than just addressing inadvertent roaming.

"I am particularly pleased that all the Irish mobile phone operators have introduced roaming initiatives that benefit both bill paying and pay-as-you go users," Dempsey said.

Eagle, meanwhile, claimed that the introduction of new tariffs by UK mobile phone operators could lead to savings of up to £3m for mobile phone users in Northern Ireland.

"The introduction of new tariffs by all the operators is good news for all mobile users within Ireland and the UK but particularly for those citizens and businesses in border counties," said Minister Eagle.

Both ministers said that the roaming issue has now moved to EU level, where the European Commission is planning legislation to slash mobile phone charges within the EU25.

Under the proposed legislation, wholesale costs - the fees mobile operators pay one another for processing roaming calls - will be capped. The EU will annually review an average of this cost in order to set the cap. Then, the mark-up at retail will be limited to 30 per cent. The caps will apply to calls both made and received while abroad.

The proposal has come under attack from mobile operators who could reportedly lose up to €4bn in revenues should the legislation be approved.

However, while most operators can only see fault with the proposed legislation, most admit that something needs to be done to reduce roaming costs in the EU.

In a statement released on Thursday, Three Ireland said it agrees with the commission's argument that international roaming prices are exorbitant.

"The Three group believes retail rates for international roaming are high as the direct result of the unjustifiably high level of wholesale international roaming rates. Three believes the industry must now collectively address consumer and EU concerns by dramatically lowering wholesale roaming charges across the Europe."

Copyright © 2006, ENN

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