19 July 2006

The Web
Business Today

The cost of roaming

Consumers can compare roaming charges for the different mobile operators thanks to an initiative undertaken by the European Commission. Business Today analysed the various tariffs Go Mobile and Vodafone customers are subject to when abroad.

No less than 61,000 Maltese citizens travelled abroad in the first four months of this year and according to the National Statistics Office 79 per cent of these travellers chose an EU destination.
The top destinations for Maltese travellers are the UK, Italy, Belgium and Germany and it would not be amiss to assume that all these travellers carried with them their favourite toy; the mobile phone. No less than 327,000 mobile phones are active and registered with the two mobile operators, Vodafone and Go mobile and the communications gadget is probably the second most important item any traveller picks up along with his or her passport.
The European Commission in liaison with the regulatory authorities of member states has published a comparative table of prices for roaming services by the various mobile operators.
A Maltese citizen in an overseas country has three options for being charged; when calling back home from the foreign land, when receiving a call from Malta or when ending an SMS.
Based on the Commission’s comparative table, a Go mobile customer on a prepaid card plan, carrying out a four minute call at peak time from the UK to Malta will be charged EUR5.76. On the other hand, a Vodafone customer pays EUR6.24.
From the second most popular destination, Italy, Vodafone becomes the cheapest network at EUR4.32 as against Go’s rate at EUR4.80.
There is also a discrepancy in the rate if the Maltese citizen is in Belgium. Calling Malta with a Go number, the rate is EUR7.67 while a Vodafone number pays EUR9.58. And if your travel requirement takes you to Germany there is no difference in charging between Go and Vodafone at EUR5.76.
For calls received from Malta, the situation changes slightly. Go mobile offers one rate to its customers irrespective of whether they are in the UK, Italy or Belgium. For calls received from home the rate is EUR4.51. Vodafone charges higher rates at EUR5.95 for the UK and Italy and EUR7.29 and EUR6.62 for Belgium and Germany respectively.
SMSs come with simpler tariff plans with both Go and Vodafone customers be charged 36 euro cents per message for all the top destinations.
But Malta still has 28,000 mobile phone customers who are contract based, primarily fitting the profile of a business executive.
For these customers, calling back home from the UK would be cheaper on a Vodafone network at EUR5.27 as against EUR5.56 paid by a Go mobile customer. It is the same in Italy, Belgium and Germany where Vodafone customers pay EUR2.69, EUR7.29 and EUR5.09 for a four minute call respectively. The best price offers for these three countries for Go customers stand at EUR2.88, EUR7.87 and EUR5.47 respectively.
The situation changes when calls originate in Malta. Go customers get to juggle with one rate for the UK, Italy, Belgium and Germany, at EUR3.75. Vodafone offers one rate for the UK, Italy and Germany at EUR4.70 and a different rate in Belgium at EUR5.96.
When it comes to SMS both operators offer the same rate, inclusive of VAT, for the same countries. An SMS sent from the UK costs 27 euro cents, from Italy 24 euro cents, from Belgium 20 euro cents and Germany 17 euro cents.
All rates are inclusive of VAT and voice calls are benchmarked at a length of four minutes. Given that both operators have various roaming agreements in the different countries at different rates, the quoted prices are the lowest for each operator in the respective country.
The information can be accessed on the website of the European Information Society and also forms part of the Commission’s efforts to lower roaming charges across the EU.
Commissioner Vivienne Redding is determined to push forward her proposals so that roaming costs are decreased by at least 70 per cent. The benchmark being used is that a citizen calling home from abroad will only pay 49 euro cents and local calls be capped at 33 euro cents a minute.
This could be the first decision taken by the EU, which has a direct positive impact on the lowering of costs of services that are regulatory induced.


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