O2 extends voice roaming price cuts

Subscription-based tariff is expanded across Europe, but operator still has no plans to reduce data-roaming charges

O2 has extended its European roaming tariff scheme to 31 countries, having previously predicted it would cover 35 states by mid-2007.

Last year the operator introduced its My Europe tariffs, under which a customer paid a discounted rate of 35p per minute to send or receive calls unless they paid a monthly supplement of £2.50, in which case incoming calls would be free and outgoing calls would enjoy a discounted rate.

The tariffs initially applied only to Spain — home of O2's parent group Telefonica — and the UK, but now include the majority of Europe. While the 35p per minute incoming/outgoing tariff still exists for those not paying a monthly premium, customers using the new My Europe Extra tariff will now pay £5 per month to get incoming calls free and outgoing calls at 25p per minute. Customers using their handsets in Spain will still pay only £2.50 per month.

Users who want reduced roaming rates for a single month, instead of taking out a 12-month subscription, will have to pay a £10 surcharge to do so.

According to Sally Cowdrie, O2's marketing director, "people want simplicity and transparency with the flexibility of using their mobile phone whilst travelling [and they] also want to keep costs down".

Data roaming, however, is still not part of O2's price reduction plan, despite the European Commission's recent threat to add data to its incoming roaming charge regulations. The only UK operator to offer business customers free roaming on its international networks is 3, although its coverage of Europe is far more limited than that of O2.

Mike Short, vice president of research and development at O2 and chairman of the Mobile Data Association, told ZDNet UK last Tuesday that data roaming was "very complex [due to] understanding different networks and how they justify their per-megabit charges". He promised, however, that "data will follow" voice in O2's future roaming reductions.

For now, O2's customers must pay between £5.29 and £7.05 per megabyte when they access data services while travelling.

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