Monday 11 December 2017

Roaming fees saga unlikely to reopen after Brexit

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). Stock picture
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). Stock picture
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

It seems like sod's law. Just as we get a break on mobile roaming fees, they might come back after Brexit.

As the UK is by far our most-visited neighbour, this could eliminate up to half the value we gain from this month's pan-EU roaming cost reductions.

The good news is that this looks unlikely to happen for a number of reasons.

First, the UK arm of Ireland's second-largest operator, Three, has publicly stated it will not revert to traditional roaming charges after Brexit. A similar gesture from Three Ireland doesn't seem far-fetched. It's the same company, after all.

Similarly, Vodafone has operations in 12 EU countries, including the UK. Brexit or no Brexit, it can simply treat calls, texts and data between its offspring units as roaming-free if it wants to.

Representatives from both Vodafone and Three have not committed to such a scenario at this stage. But if Vodafone or Three keeps roaming fees from re-entering, Meteor and smaller operators such as Tesco Mobile will find it very difficult to reintroduce them and hold on to their customers.

And the Irish mobile market is very competitive.

Another reason why Brexit may not herald the return of steep roaming charges when in the UK is the length of time Brexit will actually take to kick in.

It isn't happening this year or next, and it may not be concluded by 2022, a significant year in EU telecoms law.

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).

Assuming Brexit isn't concluded by then, mobile operators will have become used to a trading environment with little or no roaming charges among each other. There simply won't be the same commercial momentum to jack them up again, as might happen now if things somehow disintegrated.

The bottom line is that anyone signing a 24-month contract with an Irish operator today is very unlikely to see a change in roaming conditions before the lifetime of that contract is up.

Irish Independent

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