This week, additional charges for mobile roaming within the European Union (EU) end. James Wilson, Research Analyst at Mintel, looks at how this will impact the Irish market.

From 15 June 2017, the price of a voice call will be €0.32 (27 pence) per minute and an SMS text message will be €0.01 (1 pence). Price caps for mobile data will also be introduced, beginning at €7.70 (£6.44) per gigabyte as of 15 June 2017, and reducing over a five-year period to €2.50 (£2.09) per gigabyte as of 1 January 2022. This move will be welcomed by European travellers and Irish consumers who regularly travel between the two regions or who live within the border counties, as they will no longer incur large phone bills for making calls, sending texts and using the internet (subject to their usage, of course).

Lower internet and data charges will be particularly good news for consumers who are conducting ever more of their lives online through their smartphones. Indeed, data is so important that 42% of NI and 34% of ROI consumers would trade free calls and texts for a larger data allowance, according to Mintel’s Mobile Phones Ireland 2017 report.

However, now that Article 50 has been triggered and Brexit negotiations set to get formally under way, the UK’s departure from the EU could see consumers in NI only being able to benefit from the end of roaming charges until the spring of 2019, when the UK is expected to leave the EU. Amidst all the uncertainty regarding the impact of Brexit politically, economically and culturally, roaming charges are one of the practical issues that will have an impact on Irish consumers’ day-to-day lives, particularly given the high usage of smartphones and mobile data. The challenge facing mobile network operators is how to make the most of the abolition of roaming charges, while managing expectations for the possibility that these charges will be re-instated post-Brexit.

Mintel’s Brexit research consistently shows that its impact on the cost of living is the biggest consumer concern. The abolition of roaming charges is a concrete example of the way that cross-border co-operation can work in favour of consumers. Their re-imposition would be an equally concrete example of the way that leaving the EU could push up prices.

As a research analyst with Mintel, James researches and writes in the retail, technology and leisure sectors for Mintel’s Irish series of reports. His specialist areas include all things digital with a focus on social media and consumer shopping habits. He has featured in radio interviews and national publications such as The Times. James holds a BA (Hons) and a MSc in Marketing.

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