The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is likely to ask operators to implement free roaming across the nation by March 2013, according to a report by the Economic Times. 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. 

As per an internal DoT note reviewed by the Economic Times, abolishing roaming charges across the country is one of the key initiatives of the 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. 

No more roaming charges!

Slimmer bills coming? (Image credit: Getty Images)

Mobile phone companies are opposed to the idea of free roaming, for reasons like higher tariffs, security threat, undesirable competition and end of the concept of STD. Quoting an executive with a leading GSM operator, the report shares that, “Currently, the roaming charges are borne only by those who avail of the roaming service. Operators would need to recover this loss in roaming revenues leading to tariff increase which will be equally borne by the non-roaming customer base. To create a new tariff equilibrium, the tariffs in some non-affluent parts of country will go up and in other parts will drop.”

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, that 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. 

It authorised DoT to finalise the new Unified Licensing regime with the approval of Minister of Communications & IT. The policy attempted to focus on providing secure, reliable, affordable and high quality converged telecommunication services anytime, anywhere for an accelerated inclusive socio-economic development. The latest National Telecom Policy for 2012 replaced the older regulation, which had been in effect, for more than 12 years now. According to the new reforms brought about by this policy, mobile users will be able to enjoy free roaming and will be allowed to keep their phone numbers, even if they plan to change their service providers anywhere across the country, as per the Nationwide Intra Circle MNP that has been proposed. 

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