M A I N   N E W S

Free roaming likely from March 1
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune news service

New Delhi, January 30
Mobile phone users are likely to get free roaming facility across India from March 1. Sources in the Department of Telecom (DoT) said in line with the National Telecom Policy (NTP) 2012, preparations were underway to waive roaming charges for mobile subscribers.

Once the roaming charges are waived, mobile users will be able to get incoming calls free of charge and outgoing calls at local rates while travelling anywhere in the country. The notification for the same could be issued soon, said reports.

In view of the forthcoming announcement, Aircel yesterday became the first telecom operator to announce seamless roaming on its network.

The NTP was approved by the Union Cabinet in May 2012.

Under the policy, the government had said that roaming within the country would be made free with the introduction of concept of “one nation, one rate.”

In most countries abroad, roaming within the country is free as a single licence is issued to telecom companies. But India is divided into 22 telecom sectors and a company is required to take a separate licence for each circle.

Roaming charges are imposed when a subscriber goes out from his home circle to another circle. The exercise adds to the revenues of the telcos. Companies earn around 10 per cent of their revenue from the roaming charges.

Telecom companies feel that free roaming and no STD factor will hit their margins badly. As a result, they have threatened to stop offering roaming services if the government forces through the policy. Mobile companies have told telecom regulator TRAI that such a policy would wipe out 10 per cent of their annual revenues, and this would be hard to sustain. “If the incoming national roaming charges are made zero, then either we will be forced to stop giving roaming services to our GSM subscribers or we would take a heavy financial hit,” Tata Teleservices had said in a written communication to TRAI.

Companies are also suggesting that it can compromise the security as people can purchase SIMs easily and use them without extra cost anywhere in the country. TRAI has floated a consultation paper to seek the comments of operators. Currently, operators are free to fix mobile tariffs, including roaming charges, without any regulatory intervention. Operators charge Re 1 per minute for incoming calls and Rs 1.50 per minute for outgoing calls while roaming. An SMS is also priced at Rs 1.50 per message. All operators, barring Reliance Communications, have opposed the proposed move to make roaming free. 





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