• United States

O2 Ireland cuts border roaming fees

Feb 08, 20062 mins
Network Security

O2 Ireland on Wednesday became the first mobile operator in Ireland to essentially eliminate roaming fees for all customers who travel to Northern Ireland. O2’s action may lead the way for other operators across Europe to reduce the cost to roam, as they bow to growing pressure to reduce prices.

Mobile roaming on the island of Ireland has been a charged issue lately, especially for people living near the border. “The issue has become quite high profile,” said Padraig Coakley, managing consultant with Mason Communications, a telecom consultancy. “A lot of people have been taken by surprise when they suddenly get a massive bill.”

The high bills come after customers user their phones in Ireland while unknowingly connected to O2’s U.K. service for Northern Ireland. Many people in the border areas have complained to Irish and U.K. regulators as well as local politicians, he said.

O2 Ireland’s new plan eliminates all charges for customers to receive calls while roaming in Northern Ireland. Pre-pay customers will pay a flat €0.39 ($0.47) to make calls to Ireland from Northern Ireland, and post-pay customers won’t pay roaming charges to make calls to Ireland from Northern Ireland.

In addition, for O2 corporate and small-business customers, the elimination of roaming charges extends to anywhere in the U.K., so business customers can travel to London or elsewhere in England, Wales or Scotland and not pay roaming fees.

Coakley expects that the other operators in Ireland will follow suit. Vodafone Group and three others operate networks in both the U.K. and Ireland but Meteor Mobile Communications operates only in Ireland.

The issue of accidentally roaming along borders is common in other areas of Europe, particularly the Benelux countries where there are many borders within a small area, Coakley noted. He hasn’t heard of operators in those or other border regions in Europe eliminating roaming.

Still, it’s likely that roaming charges across borders in Europe are likely to decline in part because of pressure from the European Commission. Operators currently typically charge more than €1 per minute to use a mobile phone while roaming in Europe. On Wednesday, the European Commission is expected to propose banning the high fees. “If the operators don’t do it voluntarily, they may be forced to by Commission action,” Coakley said.


Nancy Gohring is a freelance journalist who started writing about mobile phones just in time to cover the transition to digital. She's written about PCs from Hanover, cellular networks from Singapore, wireless standards from Cyprus, cloud computing from Seattle and just about any technology subject you can think of from Las Vegas. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Computerworld, Wired, the Seattle Times and other well-respected publications.

More from this author