In what could swiftly bring to a conclusion a long-running contentious issue, O2 Ireland today became the first mobile operator in Ireland to abolish roaming charges between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Welcoming the news, Communications Minister Noel Dempsey TD has called for other mobile operators to “step up to the mark” and abolish the charges.
For many years businesses and citizens in the border counties have complained bitterly about accruing inadvertent roaming costs and the subject had been flagged at a national level in terms of hearings at the Oireachtas Committee on Communications. O2’s initiative will see an end to this problem from its customers’ perspective north and south of the border.
The new measures taken by O2 will see no charges being made for prepay and post-pay customers for receiving calls while in Northern Ireland. The new measures will take effect from this April hereon.
Prepaid calls while roaming in Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland will be charged at a new flat rate. As well as this international roaming has been abolished for business customers of the company.
The Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Noel Dempsey TD said it was unacceptable and unfair for roaming charges to affect users both sides of the border as they have so far and called for other operators to ban cross-border roaming charges.
Dempsey said: “Both myself and my Northern Irish counterpart, Angela Smith, have had a series of meetings about this, including a meeting of all the mobile phone operators and regulators in London last September when the operators agreed to engage with us and propose solutions.
“I received an update from the regulators last month and am looking forward to more progress being made by the time we meet again at the end of March,” added Minister Dempsey.
“It is simply unacceptable that thousands of people travelling north and south every day are subjected to high, inadvertent roaming charges when they call or text on their mobile. I am happy with today’s announcement by O2, but more needs to be done and I am once again calling on the other mobile phone operators to come up with solutions to end this problem,” concluded Dempsey.
O2 chief executive Danuta Gray said the measures were driven by concerns of businesses that wanted to reduce the costs involved in doing business with the UK. The all-island pricing will be applied to corporate and SME customers from 13 February and from then onwards users won’t have to pay to receive a call when roaming in the UK. Calls to the UK and back to Ireland will be charged at a domestic rate according to individual price plans.
“Our customers have told us that it makes no sense to pay roaming charges while making calls on the island of Ireland. This is particularly important to our customers who live and work near the border, many of whom have had to endure inadvertent roaming charges. Having listened carefully to this feedback, we are delighted to abolish roaming charges on the island of Ireland for our 1.6 million customers,” Gray said.
The news was welcomed by Chambers Ireland whose CEO John Dunne commented: “Inadvertent roaming charges have been an issue for members of Chambers Ireland affiliated chambers on both parts of the island. This action will be particularly beneficial for companies based in the border region.
“Furthermore, given that the UK is still the Republic’s biggest market for both exports and imports, the abolition of roaming charges throughout the UK for business customers is also to be welcomed as a means of facilitating business in its efforts to win more sales in this crucial market for Ireland,” Dunne added.
By John Kennedy
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