The European Commissioner responsible for telecommunications is to bring forward proposals aimed at reducing the cost of mobile phone roaming across the European Union.

Information Society and Media Commissioner, Viviane Reding, said the measure was necessary because mobile operators in all member states had ignored the opportunity to voluntarily reduce mobile roaming costs.

Speaking at a meeting of European telecom regulators in Paris this evening, Ms Reding said the new regulation would ensure mobile phone customers would not pay no more when roaming internationally than the maximum national roaming charge applied by operators in the home country.

She said the proposals may also contain measures to force mobile service providers to be more transparent with roaming pricing, and might also make it easier for operators to offer services across borders.

The proposals, which have yet to be formally drawn up, will have to be approved by the European Parliament and members states.

They are not expected to come into force until the second half of next year at the earliest.

Call for mobile firms to follow O2 lead

The Minister for Communications, Noel Dempsey, has warned Irish mobile phone companies that they could lose out on business if they do not follow the decision by O2 Ireland to abolish roaming charges for its customers between the Republic and Northern Ireland.

O2 announced today that its 1.6 million customers will not be charged from April for calls they receive while in Northern Ireland.

Mr Dempsey and business groups have both welcomed the move.

Pre-pay customers will be charged a new flat rate and roaming charges will also be abolished across Britain and Ireland for business customers.

The change will come into effect in April and will particularly affect people who live and work near the border, many of whom have had to pay inadvertent roaming charges.

However, O2 customers living in Northern Ireland but travelling in the Republic will not benefit from today's changes. A spokeswoman for the company said it was a matter for O2 UK.