Wednesday, 15 June 2005
Noel Dempsey (Minister, Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources; Meath, Fianna Fail)
I have no function in the setting of pricing for phone services. The regulation of telecommunications operators, including pricing for mobile services, is the responsibility of the Commission for Communications Regulation, or ComReg, in accordance with the requirements of the Communications (Regulation) Act 2002 and regulations made under the EU regulatory framework for electronic communications.
Earlier this year I welcomed the publication of a joint ComReg and Ofcom report which was published in January 2005 on cross-Border telecommunications issues. The report covers cross-Border mobile telephone roaming. I am delighted that ComReg and Ofcom have adopted a common approach to tackle this issue of mutual concern to businesses and the public on both sides of the Border. On 24 March 2005 I issued a press release with my Northern Irish ministerial counterpart, Mr. Barry Gardiner MP, following a joint meeting with ComReg and Ofcom, which expressed concern at mobile phone customers being caught by roaming mobile signals along the Border and incurring international charges for what they think are national calls.
I support the report's call for the mobile operators to enter into joint arrangements on a cross-Border basis to offer customers all-island tariffs. While I acknowledge that a number of operators already offer all-island tariff options, it is disappointing that where these are available they are limited to bill-paying customers and business contracts. I would like to see all-island rates extended to pay-as-you-go mobile users who represent around 70% of the mobile customer base. I appreciate that entering into such arrangements would involve business decisions which are a matter for the operators.
I have already taken the opportunity in meetings with the operators to raise this issue and will continue to do so. I will also raise the issue with the new Northern Ireland Minister concerned.