The Commission for Communications Regulation and Northern Ireland's Communications Regulator today published the first report of their joint working group on cross-border telecoms issues.

The group was set up last April to explore solutions to problems that affect telecommunications users both north and south of the border. These include mobile roaming charges, data transfer, illegal radio broadcasting and the potential for joint provision of all-island spectrum licences.

During their research, ComReg and Ofcom said they found that inadvertent roaming is a feature on all networks on both sides of the border.

The research found that some of the mobile companies have all-island tariff options for their post-pay subscribers. However, none of the companies have any all-island arrangements in place for pre-paid customers - the largest customer segment in both the Republic and the North.

The report also discovered that roaming pre-pay mobile phone users in the North could be paying up to six times the charges incurred by customers on a contract, while 43% of them have been connected to a cross border base station which still in the North. One third of these then made a call which incurred international roaming charges.

ComReg and Ofcom are still working with other members of the European Regulators Group on the wider issue of international roaming.

On the issue of cross border data transfer, the ComReg report said that recent initiatives by both Governments have begun to improve the level of infrastructure and services in the area. This, the regulator said, can lead to greater diversity of supply and more competition.

'It is imperative that both Regulators work together to find solutions that will contribute to resolving the long standing cross border telecoms issues raised in this report,' commented ComReg Chairperson Isolde Goggin.

Her NI counterpart Denis Wolinski said that the research demonstrates that consumer concern about inadvertent roaming between the North and the Republic is based on evidence. 'We are keen to work with the industry to explore possible solutions,' he added.