Mobile signals don't recognise the border

John Murray Brown looks at the vexed question of mobile phone tarriffs in border areas. Apparently 10% of the NI population recieve calls from networks on the other side of the border, and have to pay premium roaming charges as a result. I know from one recent visit the that my own T-Mobile phone kicked into the Vodafone Ireland network on the hill above Eglinton, Co Derry. Greg Campbell suggests there should be a regulator for Britain and Ireland.

  • szlwzl

    Couldn’t agree more – if the South can offer an “All Ireland” rate why should I pay 20p to text and 75p a min(or whatever it is) to make and receive calls?
    Is it a regulator that’s required or just the phone companies being less greedy?
    S

  • Ciarán Irvine

    Alternatively, everyone in the north could sign up with O2 or Vodaphone Ireland (south). End of problem.

  • Fraggle

    “everyone in the north could sign up with O2 or Vodaphone Ireland (south)”

    do they accept northern billing addresses? if so, I would consider it.

  • maca

    “do they accept northern billing addresses? if so, I would consider it.”

    I was subscribed with Esat (now 02 I think) while living in Scandanavia and they had no problem accepting my billing address.

  • Rebecca Black

    “everyone in the north could sign up with O2 or Vodaphone Ireland (south)”

    erm, why not the other way around?

    I’m not being pedantic, just, as thw owner of both an Irish and a British phone, I find the British phone much better value. And on the whole there is a great deal more variety in the types of offers available in the UK than in Ireland. If you want proof of this, just visit the O2 Ireland and then the O2 Britain sites. The British site has a huge variety of deals in the pay monthly tariff whereas on the Irish site I believe there are only two options.

  • Davros

    Why not use a phone box ? With the exception of medics etc for their work who reaslly needs a mobile ?

  • Alan2

    It`s about time people were offered ALL-Ireland & UK rates. BT already offers such on landlines to NI customers.

  • maca

    Good point Rebecca. Though I don’t see why these companies can’t balance their charges so it makes no difference which side of the fence you’re on.
    Is it tax related or..?

  • Fraggle

    The point is that the southern tariffs allow for all-island pricing while the NI/Uk tariffs don’t. someone using a NI phone in the south would end up paying a lot more with roaming charges.

  • Ciarán Irvine

    erm, why not the other way around?

    Point taken about the variety and bad value, but there was a ComReg report this week on that very topic which basically (in polite words) said that the mobile companies were a bunch of thieving gougers, so expect change there sometime soonish.

    But on the basic point, if the southern companies already have an all-Ireland rate and don’t penalise people for popping into the north for a while (though they do when sending texts from the north to the south, oddly!); whereas the northern companies are penalising people for getting too close to the border then surely it is simpler all round for northerners to simply sign up with the southern companies rather than erecting a massively-unwieldy, legally byzantine and very expensive Ireland and Britain Super-Regulator monument to stupidity?

    Alan:
    BT already offers such on landlines to NI customers.

    You absolutely sure about that? Surely, again, it’s the other way round? If I call me ma in Derry from Galway on my landline it’s the same price as calling Dublin or Cork. But if she phones me, it comes up as an international call on her bill and presumably charged as one too? And the cost for phoning my southern mobile is insane.

  • ricardo

    You can get an option from BT which will charge calls to ROI from NI at something like 5p an hour (to a landline). I have this on my BT bill and it certainly helps if you have a lot of relatives/friends living across the border. Calls to mobiles in the south are still extortionate though.

  • ricardo

    You can get an option from BT which will charge calls to ROI from NI at something like 5p an hour at off peak times (to a landline). I have this on my BT bill and it certainly helps if you have a lot of relatives/friends living across the border. Calls to mobiles in the south are still extortionate though.

  • Fraggle

    “You absolutely sure about that? Surely, again, it’s the other way round? If I call me ma in Derry from Galway on my landline it’s the same price as calling Dublin or Cork. But if she phones me, it comes up as an international call on her bill and presumably charged as one too? And the cost for phoning my southern mobile is insane.”

    NTL charge at national rate for calls from Belfast to Dublin, not internatiuonal. I have no idea about BT.

  • Ciarán Irvine

    ricardo: Ah! Thank you. Must tell the ma about that so! Probably knock a few quid off each phone bill 🙂

  • Keith M

    Davos, “Why not use a phone box ? With the exception of medics etc for their work who reaslly needs a mobile ?” I couldn’t agree more. There really is no need for the infernal things. I finally succumbed last year, only for people to start sending me those annoying text messages. My phone was unfortunatly “lost” within six weeks.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Rebecca

    “erm, why not the other way around?’’

    Why not indeed. However, as things stand currently, O2 and Vodafone south of the border offer an all-Ireland service, but none of the UK operators that serve northern phones do likewise. So at present if you buy a Vodafone mobile in Dublin you can use it in Belfast at no extra cost, but if you buy it in Belfast and use it in Dublin, you will be paying roaming rates – which are around a squillion quid a minute, if I am not mistaken. So currently it makes sense for northerners to buy southern phones but no sense for southerners to buy northern phones. However I think this is something that will change, and sooner rather than later, at which time your logic will become justified.

    All-Ireland communications is just common sense and I predict will become a reality in the next decade. A single telecommunications system across Ireland and Britain is also a very good idea – indeed Europe-wide or worldwide communications will surely become a reality at some future point. But let’s not prevent long-term ideals prevent us from achieving common sense reforms in the short term. The south has already made a start along the road when Eircom changed its policy on phone calls to the north a few years back.

    When I first moved to Dublin in ’97 I had to dial 0044 when calling home, but they changed the code for the north to 048 some time, I think, in the late ‘90s, effectively making it the north a domestic region rather than international destination. (Cue Willowfield on southern irredentism.) The charges were at a domestic rate, so a call to Armagh cost the same as a call to Wexford.

    Sadly BT didn’t reciprocate – like so many things, we in the north are bound by the logic of decision-makers in Britain who are often informed by the realities of being an island – and who couldn’t care less that NI isn’t part of that island and has completely different realities. As with fuel taxation, we are tied to decisions that make sense in Britain but that are totally incongruous anywhere except on that island. If a guy in Folkestone wants to call someone in Calais, well, one can accept that that is an international call as it’s literally overseas (albeit not too far away.)

    However, the same logic becomes farce when translated across the Irish Sea. You could have a BT customer in Belleek Co Fermanagh who phones his neighbour, an Eircom customer who lives 100 yards away over the bridge in Belleek, Co Donegal and he’s paying for an “international” call. To compound the farce, if the Eircom-using neighbour calls back, it’s only treated as a local call.
    (Which I think is an instructive example of how Irish decision-making in Ireland can help alleviate the absurdity, the wastefulness and frankly, the silliness of British decision-making in Ireland.)

    Having two telecommunications systems is problematic for everyone but if you live in the border area it’s a major economic issue. I know several people in south Armagh who have 086 and 087 numbers because if they had a UK phone then they would be charged roaming rates – even though they technically live in the UK. (Hey, in south Armagh it’s very technically…) I have even heard a story, possibly apochryphal, of a councillor in Fermanagh who has taken the issue up because if he takes his mobile from his kitchen to his living room, he switches from Vodafone UK to Vodafone Ireland.

    I moved back up north about 18 months ago and was surprised to find that call charges and text charges are much more expensive in the north – I would have expected it to be the other way around. O2 texts in the south were 8 cents, so I was flabbergasted to find myself paying 18 pence in the north – that’s about four times as much.

    You are incorrect, Rebecca, when you say that “there is a great deal more variety in the types of offers available in the UK than in Ireland’’. Certainly there are more operators in the UK, and with just three, Ireland would be well served by a couple more, but the fact is that calls and texts are cheaper in the south, and there aren’t really any significant differences in other costs such as renting or buying the phone in the first place. You extol the greater variety of payment options – fair enough. But I’d still rather have a smaller bill, even if the payment procedure was more regimented and the brochure or website wasn’t quite so glossy. I’d still rather get my top-up code on a humble receipt than in a fabulous, plastic-packaged card with an instruction sheet included – which costs the companies a fortune to mass-produce, a cost that is passed on to the customer. And for something that goes in the bin two minutes after being bought anyway.)

    Of course you could take the market fundamentalist position that more operators is always better. That being the case, why is it more expensive to keep a mobile in the north than in the south?

    (I’m not extolling less competition here either, just making the point that there are pluses and minuses for both north and south, and it really doesn’t matter whether the north adopts the southern system or vice versa. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that the partition of our telecommunications is ended. How can there be any justification for the ongoing ridiculousness of having “international” phone calls from Aughnacloy to Emyvale?)

    Alan2

    “It’s about time people were offered ALL-Ireland & UK rates.’’

    Hear hear.

    Davros

    “Why not use a phone box? With the exception of medics etc for their work who really needs a mobile?’’

    Most sensible post I’ve read on Slugger for some time. Trouble is though that so few people have such good sense. Now we have the paradoxical situation where doing the sensible thing and binning the mobile has become totally unrealistic. We have made ourselves dependent on something that was totally unnecessary to begin with.

    (Resists temptation to draw cheap parallel with unionism…)

  • cg

    It’s a pain in the arse but when you live in certain border areas all you can get is southern reception. When I went to college I had to get an extra sim card so now its o2 in Belfast and IRL Vodafone back home. If they did an all Ireland tariff and network it would be far better.

  • Ciarán Irvine

    when he takes his mobile from his kitchen to his living room, he switches from Vodafone UK to Vodafone Ireland.

    That’s no myth, it happens in my mother’s house. Weirdly though I get O2UK in the living room but O2IRL in my bedroom directly above, but at the back of the house I get O2IRL downstairs and O2UK upstairs. Figure that one out!!

  • Rebecca Black

    fraggle

    my irish phone doesn’t work north of the border whereas my O2 UK phone does, albeit at quite a cost.

    Billy

    Thats just my personal experience that my irish phone tends to cost alot more than my British phone does when I am at home.

  • Father Ted

    Some clarification:

    1. calls from NI to RoI with BT are charged at local or national rate depending on distance. So, the example quoted of someone in Belleek, Co. Fermanagh calling a neighbour in Co. Donegal is priced at *local* rates regardless of the section of your bill that that call might appear.

    2. In relation to the question “why doesn’t everyone in NI get a southern mobile as calls to anywhere in Ireland would then be non-extortionate?”… because it would cost an arm and a leg for someone in NI to use a landline to call you!

    I agree however that it is highway robbery to cross the border and pay the same tariffs as if you were in France or Germany. *Especially* given that the operators north and south of the border are the same company – in these cases it really is nauseating…

  • George

    Your mother has a very big house Ciarán?

    Rebecca,
    why would your Irish phone not work over the border?

    Vodafone works but you have to pay a €4 monthly charge for the pleasure of calling from Northern Ireland to the Irish Republic at standard rates.

    All calls received and calls to Voicemail are free. You must be on the Vodafone UK network in Northern Ireland in order to avail of this tariff. It takes 24 hours to activate.

  • Davros

    If you all ditched your mobiles and wrote and told the companies why it wouldn’t be long before a fair package was introduced.

  • Rebecca Black

    don’t know George, its meteor, its never worked in NI.

  • Ciarán Irvine

    Your mother has a very big house Ciarán?

    Hardly. Tis yer average suburban estate 3-bed semi-d. Half a mile from the border. The signals are mad all round that area: if you drive from Derry to Moville half way there (while in Donegal) your phone will insist it’s in O2UK territory. While on the precisely opposite shore of the Foyle (in Derry) you’re apparently in the Republic.

    Rebecca: Meteor? No wonder, those lads don’t have coverage for half of the Republic never mind the north! Meteor are only any use if you live, work, and never ever leave major urban centres in the Republic, despite what they claim. Ask any travelling salesman type, if yer unfortunate enough to know any of those freaks 🙂

  • willowfield

    Why doesn’t ROI rejoin the UK and then the issue wouldn’t arise?

  • George

    Rebecca,
    Meteor? All you people do is text!

    I think you can roam onto another network, Vodafone, O2 or Orange. You probably have to ask to have it set up by your provider first. Give them a call. It won’t be cheap but at least you’ll be able to use it and receive your texts.

    Willowfield,
    Ireland never “joined” this Union of yours in the first place, it was annexed, so it would be impossible to “rejoin”.

    Maybe Ireland could “apply to join” the UK would have been the appropriate phrase.

  • John

    Meteor now works in the UK and Spain.

    It uses T-mobile or Orange in UK.

  • John

    Listen, easy way around this problem, just manually select the correct network on your phone and it will stay on the desired network so there will be no roaming charges.

    With Nokia

    Select Settings

    Phone Settings

    Network Selection

    Manual

    let it find the correct network

    Select that network.

    Job Done.

  • Ryan

    can anyone just explain why the same company 02 or vodafone that operate both sides of the border can’t offer a flat rate calling scheme throughout the island.. is it simply because they make to much money ripping their customers off who stray to close to the border.