O2 finalising roaming price cuts

With Orange also offering a new tariff for overseas mobile use, the days of astronomical roaming rates may be over, at least for voice calls

UK mobile operators O2 and Orange are set to follow competitors T-Mobile and Vodafone by cutting their mobile roaming rates.

O2, which was recently bought by Spain's Telefonica, is putting the final touches on a new charging plan that will be announced in two to three weeks' time. O2 is also keen to stress that the move was unrelated to the threat of regulation by the European Commission.

"We started work prior to [EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media] Viviane Reding making her announcement last month," said Simon Gordon, O2's head of media relations, on Tuesday.

"At the beginning of the year, with the Telefonica deal, we said one of the immediate benefits that our customers would see was an improvement in roaming prices now we're part of a wider global company," he told ZDNet. "This is something that comes out of the Telefonica deal."

Vodafone and T-Mobile both cut their roaming rates on Monday.

Last week Orange introduced new roaming packages which it says make it "easier than ever for customers to predict their costs when roaming". In practice, this involves pre-purchasing a bundle of 50 incoming or outgoing call minutes for £25.

While the costs of the bundle are certainly transparent and predictable, they mean the customer must use all the minutes in the package in order to gain the 28 percent reduction on normal roaming costs. Even then, that figure still falls short of Commissioner Reding's stated principle, that "a mobile phone customer should not be charged a higher tariff just because he is travelling abroad".

A spokesperson for Orange told ZDNet UK that no further roaming price reductions were being planned, although the France Telecom subsidiary constantly updates its offers.

The new tariffs from Orange, Vodafone and T-Mobile all cover voice rather than data. Several ZDNet UK readers have recently found themselves landed with very large bills after surfing the Internet or accessing email while abroad.