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Cheap mobiles deal for EU travellers

READY-to-use sim cards bought on Ryanair planes could cut the cost of taking a mobile phone abroad. 

The airline has teamed up with the telecoms company Maxroam to offer cheap calls to travellers. The sim enable travellers to receive calls and text for free, and to send texts for nine cents, calls for 29c per minute and 99c for one megabyte of data. 

Maxroam cards will also be available to buy via Ryanair's website and will work in 43 countries in Europe. Passengers will be able to buy €20 cards for just €10. While it is not possible to use your old number directly, it is possible to set up your phone to forward calls instantly to your Maxroam number. 

The pre-pay cards mean you will not exceed any limits and, while equipped to handle data roaming, will work with most phone models less than five years old. The cards are also available via Maxroam's website. 

A survey by the European Commission found that citizens still felt roaming charges were too high, with almost 75 per cent worried about the cost of calls and data when travelling to different countries in the EU. 

While the EU has capped the charges for text messages and calls when travelling to other member states, it has done nothing to regulate the price of data, an increasing problem for the growing number who own smartphones with an internet connection. 

Commission vice-president Neelie Kroes recently told the 2011 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that crossborder phone tariffs were too high and would be capped further unless greater competitiveness was instigated. 

She outlined three options under consideration to reduce them: price caps on mobile data roaming charges, similar to those on voice and sms; allowing people to buy roaming packages from any operator, not just their own; or requiring operators to sell the service to low-cost, virtual operators across Europe. 

"The consumer often pays less than five cents for downloading one megabyte of data at home, but this may turn into €2.60 per megabyte when the same consumer crosses an invisible border," she said. 

The Commission has set the goal of bringing the difference between roaming and national charges to zero by 2015.