A mobile phone network has scrapped roaming charges between the 26 Counties and the Six Counties for all of its customers for the first time.
O2 (Ireland) has also abolished roaming charges across Britain and Ireland for its business customers. The changes will be effective from April.
Telecommunications regulators on both sides of the border had been asked by the Dublin and London governments to prepare a report outlining a better deal for consumers by the end of March. Dublin officials had urged companies to introduce special tariffs ahead of regulation on the matter.
“Our customers have told us that it makes no sense to pay roaming charges while making calls on the island of Ireland,” said Danuta Gray, chief executive of O2 Ireland. “This is particularly important to our customers who live and work near the border, many of whom have had to endure inadvertent roaming charges
Mobile phone users in the border area are routinely linked to “foreign” networks transmitting from across the border, leading to the imposition of outlandish roaming fees for making and receiving local calls. Today’s announcement will benefit O2 customers living on the southern side of the border.
The announcement was welcomed by the business sector and Sinn Féin, who called for other networks -- including O2 (UK), the sister network of O2 (Ireland) -- to introduce similar measures.
“That O2 (Ireland) has taken the lead to end this injustice for residents of the 26 Counties is a welcome development but I am calling O2 (UK) to make this service available to residents of the 6 Counties in co-operation with its sister company in the South,” said Sinn Féin General Secretary, Mitchel Mc Laughlin.
“All other mobile phone operators on the island should also follow suit.
Mr McLaughlin has pointed out that Sinn Féin has campaigned consistently on this issue for a long time.
“I have taken delegations to meet with the regulators from North and South on a number of occasions in the past number of years. We have argued that mobile phone users here are being unjustly penalised simply because of where they live.
“We live on a relatively small island which even British Secretary of State Peter Hain has acknowledged needs to develop by promoting joint ventures economically and socially on an all-Ireland basis.
“Clearly O2 (Ireland) recognise the need to treat the island of Ireland as a single economic entity.
“If O2 (UK) does not voluntarily follow this policy then it will present Peter Hain with a perfect opportunity to put his comments into action by giving the regulators the necessary powers to enforce such a policy, not just on O2 but on all of the service providers who continue to rip off their customers.”