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Last Updated: Friday, 10 December, 2004, 13:21 GMT
EU probes mobile phone call costs
Close up of 3G phone
Connection charges rise when you travel abroad
European Union (EU) telecoms regulators are to investigate whether fees charged when mobile phones are used abroad are too high.

Under the "roaming" system, mobile phones automatically find a local network when users travel abroad, allowing them to make or receive calls.

These roaming charges are frequently higher than national mobile calls.

The investigation will take six months and regulators may choose to impose a ceiling on roaming fees.

Questionnaire

Whether we travel on business or for leisure, many of us have had an unpleasant surprise when the next bill arrived
Viviane Reding, EU commissioner

The European Regulatory Group, which comprises EU member states' national telecoms regulators, is expected to complete the investigation before next July.

As a first step in the investigation into roaming fees, regulators have sent a detailed questionnaire to all EU mobile operators, including MMO2, Vodafone, T-Mobile and Orange.

"Whether we travel on business or for leisure, many of us have had an unpleasant surprise when the next bill arrived," said Viviane Reding, Information Society and Media Commissioner.

"I hope today's initiative... will help us identify remaining competition problems in the 25 member states and resolve them as soon as possible."

However, a spokesman for MM02 told BBC News that roaming costs were on the decrease.

"Over the past four years we have cut roaming fees by 30%," he said.

"In addition, we offer large discounts to customers who sign up for our international traveller service. The mobile phone market is a very competitive market."

Unfair and excessive

The investigation will run parallel to a separate EU probe into the roaming charges imposed by UK operators.

In July, the European Commission accused MMO2 and Vodafone of unfair and excessive pricing - which the companies denied.

Europe's competition authority has long been concerned about the level of roaming charges.

In 2001, it conducted raids of mobile phone operators in the UK and Germany, two of Europe's most important and advanced mobile markets.

What it costs to receive a call when abroad
Roaming costs by network and country
Country Vodafone Virgin T-Mobile MMO2 Orange
France 75p 30p 70p 94p 30p
Rep of Ireland 50p 20p 50p 94p 20p
USA 99p 80p 70p 1.20 65p
Australia 75p 30p 70p 1.30 35p
Source: Mobile phone company websites (all costs per minute based on customers signing up to a monthly tariff)

What it costs to make a call to the UK when abroad
Costs by network and country
Country Vodafone Virgin T-Mobile MMO2 Orange
France 75p 60p 75p 85p 70p
Rep of Ireland 60p 40p 50p 94p 40p
USA 1.25 1.40 90p 1.37 1.10
Australia 79p 60p 75p 85p 70p
Source: Mobile phone company websites (all costs per minute based on customers signing up to a monthly tariff)




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