Monday 24 July 2017

More than a million Irish face UK mobile roaming risk

(Stock Image)
(Stock Image)
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Around 1.3 million Irish phone users could get caught with post-Brexit mobile roaming charges as some mobile operators weigh up whether to reintroduce excess fees.

Meteor and Tesco Mobile, Ireland's third and fourth largest operators, are considering whether extra charges may need to be imposed on travellers to the United Kingdom after it leaves the European Union.

It comes as the country's two largest mobile operators say they will not reintroduce roaming charges after Brexit occurs.

To ensure "worry-free roaming", Vodafone has "no current plans to make any changes to [the new roaming structure] post-Brexit", a spokeswoman for the country's biggest network told the Irish Independent.

A spokeswoman for Three, which has 1.6 million customers, also said it would honour the abolition of roaming charges with regard to Brexit.

"We plan to maintain the new EU roaming standard after Brexit for our customers when roaming in the UK," she said.

One smaller operator, iD, also pledged not to reintroduce roaming charges after the UK leaves the EU.

However, a spokeswoman for Meteor declined to rule out extra charges, while a spokeswoman for Tesco Mobile said the operator would maintain a "watching brief" on the issue.

Both operators have a competitive disadvantage compared to Vodafone and Three, which both own networks in the UK.

However, the issue could significantly affect those living in Border counties, as well as frequent travellers to the UK.

Last week, roaming fees for calls and texts across the EU were abolished, while the cost of accessing data was reduced.

But Britain leaving the EU opens the door to the reintroduction of roaming charges for travellers to and from the UK.

Roaming fees to non-EU countries currently vary widely.

Data charges cost up to hundreds of euro per gigabyte, which is the equivalent of a few hours' social media usage.

Customers of Meteor and Tesco Mobile will be hoping that a post-Brexit deal is agreed between EU operators and UK operators that mirrors the recently introduced arrangements on roaming across the continent.

However, the issue could weigh on those currently considering a new mobile contract.

With the majority of Irish phone users now using monthly contracts instead of pre-pay arrangements, typical contract periods range from 18 to 24 months.

While the terms of Brexit are not expected to be completed before then, the issue could become a future-proofing issue.

Irish Independent

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