[Sinn Fein]

11th March 2003

"Harmonise Mobile Phone rates island-wide."

Mitchel Mc Laughlin Foyle MLA has renewed his call for the harmonisation of mobile phone rates throughout the 32 Counties. Mr. McLaughlin said:

"At present we have a situation where mobile phone customers in certain areas of the North pick up the stronger signal from the South and vice versa. This results in extra charges to the consumer despite the fact that the signal being received is invariably coming from the same provider.

Now that the same providers own the main networks throughout the island, there is an opportunity to show corporate consciousness by removing the burden of double charging that consumers on both sides of the border have been enduring for too long.

Esat-Digifone in the 26 Counties is wholly owned by BT which is also one of the major operators in the 6 counties. The same applies to a number of other major operators that own networks North and South yet act as rival providers in applying roaming rates to customers who are caught in the battle of competing signals. Rather than be seen as an opportunity to maximise profits the network providers should see this as an opportunity to harmonise mobile rates on an all-Ireland basis and thereby enhance the service to the public.

I have previously written to the providers and was assured that they were exploring ways of setting tariffs that would recognise the island of Ireland as a single tariff zone.

I would urge the main providers to voluntarily introduce a single tariff for their customers throughout the 32 Counties. Other providers will then have to follow if they wish to remain competitive.

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