According to latest reports, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has confirmed that it will soon begin with the public consultation process to implement free telecom roaming in the country. In his statement to reporters at the Telecom India 2012 conclave organised by FICCI, TRAI Chairman Rahul Khullar shared that, “It is a matter on which TRAI is competent to take a decision.” He added that soon the public will see them 'take the first move in that direction'. He assured that there will be a public consultation before arriving at any final decision. 

When asked if the regulatory body received any references from the Department of Telecom (DoT) thus far, Khullar responded that free roaming was part of the National Telecom Policy 2012. 

New guidelines should put an end to pesky SMSes (Image credit: Getty Images)

Public consultation to happen before taking a final decision (Image credit: Getty Images)

Revoking roaming charges across the country is easily the most highlighted aspect of the NTP. Recent reports suggested that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is likely to ask operators to implement free roaming across the nation by March 2013. This bit of information comes in as the latest, after the telecom department announced its plans pertaining to free roaming earlier this year. The decision, however, hasn't met with support from mobile phone companies, who fear revenue losses once roaming charges are abolished – roaming charges account for roughly 10 percent of their revenues. They have warned that if they incur losses, they would be forced to increase the tariffs. 

Popular mobile service provider Bharti Airtel, however, is of the opinion that issues like varied spectrum pricing and tariff in various circles need to be looked into before free roaming is implemented. Recently, on the sidelines of an Assocham event, Bharti Airtel CEO (India and South Asia) Sanjay Kapoor stated, “The issue has to be viewed holistically. Its not just about one part, it includes STD…We have to look at the 22 circles in the country. Every state has different spectrum pricing. Tariffs are different.” Kapoor added that all the (aforementioned) issues need to be looked into in detail before commenting on it. 

As per an internal DoT note reviewed by the Economic Times, abolishing roaming charges across the country is one of the key initiatives of DoT within the next three months. Among its other plans, the department aims to broaden the scope of mobile number portability or MNP by allowing customers to keep their numbers when moving to a new city or any other location within the country, minus the roaming charges. Currently though, MNP facilities are restricted to a circle. The concept of free roaming became the highlight of the National Telecom Policy 2012 (NTP 2012) that the Union Cabinet okayed recently. The new National Telecom Policy came in with a couple of changes in accordance to what had been planned earlier.

The concept of One Nation, One License policy across services and areas came to the fore, which would effectively eradicate roaming charges. As a result of this, difference between local and STD calls in the country would no longer be prevalent. Abolishing roaming charges certainly looks like the one thing that would appeal to the masses a lot, since those travelling will not have to worry about steep bills. 

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