Internet and text roaming cap will be next big hurdle

25 Jul 2007

With a single Eurotarrif for mobile roaming call costs across Europe set to launch next month, the next big hurdle will be harmonised internet downloading and text messaging costs, Robert Finnegan the managing director of 3 Ireland warned today.

In June, European ministers voted to adopt the European Commission’s proposal to put a 59 cent (including VAT) cap on roaming charges and reduce these charges by up to 70pc. The new EU roaming cap is to take effect at the end of August.

This morning, 3 said that it will even move to undercut this with a new rate of 39 cents per minute to make a call on your mobile when overseas and 19 cents per minute to receive a call within the EU.

Finnegan said that this places calls on 3’s network at 33pc lower than the other network operators in Ireland and he called on Vodafone, O2 and Meteor to make similar efforts to provide better value to Irish mobile users roaming in Europe.

“We are a major lobbyist to the EU on the roaming issue and we believe the other mobile operators are reluctant to reduce their charges. I used to believe that ‘ROAM’ stood for ‘rip off anyone with a mobile’.”

“If you were to make at least 10 calls under the rate we are offering you could save €50 on your bill,” Finnegan said.

He said it is imperative that the next thing the EU should do on the matter is to tackle roaming charges for downloading from the internet and for sending text messages.

“We are lobbying the EU to do the same thing with text and data roaming. A song you download at home for €1.50 could cost you €25 abroad.

“People are continually downloading when they are abroad and we have been lobbying the EU on this for some time. They are looking into it. It took some time to bring about changes in voice roaming charges and you won’t see any voluntary moves from the other operators so it will again require EU intervention,” Finnegan said.

Under regulatory obligations as a 3G license holder, Finnegan said that the company will reverse its stance on not disclosing customer figures in September. He said that the present Irish subscriber figures are significantly higher than the 108,000 suggested on Morning Ireland today.

“We are happy with our numbers. We have a corporate parent and they will decide what information we will release in September. We’ll wait and see what we’re allowed to disclose.”

On the question of calls to establish a mobile registry of owners of prepaid SIM cards in the fight against crime, Finnegan said that 3 is already working closely with the Gardai and other emergency services.

He said that the creation of a registry would have to be carefully planned and discussed and not done as a “knee jerk reaction.” He pointed to Switzerland where the creation of such a registry led to the rise of a black market in SIM cards.

By John Kennedy