Roaming costs forecast to fall


Irish consumers should be able to make and receive cheaper mobile phone calls while travelling abroad shortly after the completion of Vodafone's purchase of Eircell.

Lower roaming tariffs agreed between the two operators will cut the cost of calls. Roaming tariffs are the costs levied on an operator for using another company's telecoms network.

Vodafone is proposing to introduce a single roaming charge for its 14 mobile operations in Europe by the first quarter of next year. This would mean significant cost savings for Irish customers who travel regularly.

At present, Irish customers are charged £1.01 (€1.28) per minute to call Ireland from the UK using an Eicell mobile phone while roaming on Vodafone's network. This is significantly more expensive than calls made from fixed line telephones or calls made by Esat Digifone users on the BT Cellnet UK network.

Digifone introduced one of world's first special roaming arrangements with its parent group BT Cellnet earlier this year. This enables Digifone customers to make and receive calls in the UK at a cost of just 25 pence per minute.

A Vodafone spokesman would not reveal the pan-European roaming charge. However, it is likely to be significantly cheaper than the charge now.

Other benefits such as cheaper handsets and broader access to mobile content may also follow a tie-up with Vodafone. The economies of scale enjoyed by Vodafone in sourcing goods from equipment suppliers will increase Eircell's buying power.

A cheaper roll-out of thirdgeneration technology and cost savings through co-ordinating technological research may also benefit the Irish consumer. Higher profit margins may translate into lower call costs.

Customers will also benefit from the variety of content that will become available to Eircell through Vodafone's existing partnerships and customers. Earlier this week Vodafone's Internet and mobile portal Vizzavi launched a pan-European technological platform for mobile phones, PCs, and digital TV. This is being expanded across Vodafone's mobile subsidiaries.