Meteor mauls Vodafone over pre-pay charges

23 May 2003

Mobile network operator Meteor has come out strongly against Vodafone’s new pre-pay rates, saying the move proved that mobile termination rates were not solely responsible for high tariffs. According to Meteor, it is now cheaper for its pre-pay customers to call Vodafone users than it is for Vodafone users to do so.

A spokesperson for Vodafone confirmed that the company had changed its pre-pay rates this week. However, the move seems to have been given little publicity. On Tuesday the company issued a press release stating that Vodafone Ready-to-Go (pre-pay) customers can send text messages for 8 cent and save on peak and off-peak voice calls made to three nominated Vodafone customers. The special promotional rates, it said, would be available from 21 May until 31 August 2003. No mention was made of any increase in call charges.

The change prompted Meteor to point out that a call from one Vodafone number to another Vodafone number at off-peak times is now 15 cent whereas an off-peak call from Meteor to Vodafone is 13 cent, so Vodafone customers are being charged 2 cent more, and a minimum 3 cent connection charge to call their own network.

“Mobile termination rates are blamed for high tariffs but this is obviously not the case,” said Meteor’s Andrew Kelly.

He stated that Interconnect Mobile Terminations Rates do not add to the cost of on-net calls, ie calls from one number on a network to another number on the same network.

“Both of the big two operators are charging their own customers more to make calls on their own network than Meteor charge to call either of those networks and therefore the additional margin being charged by Vodafone and O2 cannot be blamed on interconnect charges,” he said.

Meteor is Ireland’s third mobile phone operator. Coming to market some years behind O2 and Vodafone, the company has struggled to win customers. According to the most recent figures from ComReg, it has as a 4pc market share in Ireland.

Ireland’s pre-pay mobile phone market is the largest segment in the business. According to ComReg figures, pre-paid customers account for 72pc of all subscribers. Ireland has a high rate of ARPU (average revenue per user) at €45 a month, whereas the EU average is €30. This has led some to accuse the network operators of taking too high a margin from their customers. The networks have countered by stating that Irish users simply user their phones more often.

By Dick O’Brien