Thursday 19 April 2018

Ireland’s biggest operators give mobile users Brexit boost

Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Ireland’s two biggest mobile operators have agreed not to reintroduce roaming rates for Irish customers travelling to Britain after Brexit.

Vodafone and Three have both informed that they will keep the new EU rules for Irish users even though Britain will no longer be part of the EU.

It’s a bit of good news for phone users here wondering what the cost of Brexit might be.

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

But with Britain the most-visited country for people from Ireland, there has been confusion over whether mobile charges will return once the UK exits European laws.

A spokeswoman for Vodafone said that the operator has “no current plans to make any changes to [the new roaming structure] post Brexit”. She said that this will mean “worry free roaming” for its customers.

A spokeswoman for Three also said that the operator would not revert to pre-ban roaming charges.

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

Together, Vodafone and Three represent over 70pc of the Irish mobile market.

The news will come as a relief to those living in border counties as well as frequent travellers to the UK.

It will also put pressure on rivals such as Meteor and Tesco Mobile, Ireland’s third and fourth largest operators, respectively.

A spokeswoman for Tesco Mobile said today that the operator was unable to follow Vodafone and Three on not reintroducing post-Brexit roaming charges.

“Tesco Mobile Ireland will continue to maintain a watching brief regarding Brexit as negotiations continue,” said a spokeswoman for the operator.

A spokeswoman for Meteor said that “no decision” has been made on the issue.

However, neither owns a network in the UK as Vodafone and Three do. This could make it more costly for them to promise no return to roaming if UK-based operators impose steep fees on them.

Under the new EU roaming law, operators are entitled to limit the amount of data accessible when travelling to ease operators into a roaming-free era.

The arrangement means that a typical prepay user that gets 20GB or ‘all you can eat’ data for €20 is only entitled to around 5GB of that data when travelling across the EU. After that, roaming charges of €9.50 per GB kick in.

The UK arm of Ireland’s second-largest operator, Three, has publicly stated that it will not revert to traditional roaming charges after Brexit.

The bottom line is that customers considering new 24-month contracts now know that they won’t get stung with post-Brexit roaming fees.

To be fair, Brexit-related roaming charges are unlikely to materialise anytime soon. A deal between the EU and the UK is expected to take years to finalise. Under EU law, roaming fees between operators must keep reducing until they settle at €2.50 per gigabyte of data in 2022 (down from €7.70 now).

By then, mobile operators will have been used to a trading environment with little or no roaming charges amongst each other. If Brexit does not occur until closer to that date, there may not be significant commercial pressure on Irish operators to introduce new roaming fees for travellers to the UK.

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