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En Garde! Villagers FIGHT OFF FRENCH INVASION MENACE

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England's world-famous White Cliffs of Dover have squared up to invading forces for centuries - but visitors to the seafront are warned to expect a more modern-day incursion: French mobile networks armed with steep roaming charges.

Tourists taking a walk along the cliff-tops or beaches at St Margaret-at-Cliffe and St Margaret's Bay will discover their phones disconnecting from the UK networks and lapping up signals coming across the Channel from France - and being billed as though they were there, in Calais, on international rates.

That's assuming network roaming isn't switched off as one approaches the edge of Blighty's soil.

It's an inconvenience that's well known to anyone living in and around those Kent villages, but hysterical voices reported by The Daily Mail are kicking up a fuss and demanding to know why T-Mobile and other network operators can't fix this problem.

Mobile phones finding themselves at the foot of the White Cliffs - or indeed anywhere tight against the shore down to Folkestone and possibly beyond - will log on to base stations on the other side of the Channel, 37km away. This is thanks to the propensity of radio to carry over water and the radio shadow of the cliffs themselves, which prevents connection to the domestic networks, much to the annoyance of those who find themselves paying international rates for local calls.

Even the marginally-less-impassioned BBC has today brought up the issue despite how rarely it afflicts the British population and the fact it's been a constant annoyance to those living in countries not conveniently surrounded by water since time immemorial.

Even in the UK those living close to the Irish border are familiar with the danger of roaming into another country's coverage, something which particularly irked when O2 used the same network identifier on both sides, making it impossible to tell how much a call was going to cost. But the problem is more visible now the EU's rules on roaming have been applied.

Those rules state that when one roams onto a foreign network, within Europe, that network is obliged to send a welcoming notification outlining the cost of calling and data, which in turn means anyone walking along the White Cliffs will get a text message from France welcoming them to the country before they've even considered making a call.

The Mail tells us of a villager who was accused of cross-Channel infidelity when his wife saw the international billing, but one has to wonder at a relationship thrown into turmoil by a French phone call. Equally we're told the Coastguard pub has lost business when those entering find they're in France, presumably terrified they'll be served pastis in place of warm ale.

Countries with land borders suffer this kind of thing all the time, and locals just switch off roaming or lobby their operator for better terms (as O2 eventually offered in Ireland), but when it comes to Blighty it's apparently a bigger deal: for no man is an island, and the UK demonstrably isn't either. ®

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