The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) yesterday released a pre-consultation paper on 'Review of Tariff for National Roaming', clearly indicating that one of the first steps towards ensuring free roaming in the country by next year has been taken. By way of its pre-consultation paper, the regulatory body has sought inputs from stakeholders on fixing tariff for National Roaming services, allowing it to draw an elaborate consultation paper. With this, TRAI has sought views of the stakeholders on several aspects of the National Roaming Services – cost components, manner of recovery of cost in case incoming calls are made free, tariff for video calls and SMS while on roaming, need for permitting Special Tariff Vouchers for roaming subscribers, et al. TRAI has uploaded the pre-consultation paper on 'Review of Tariff for National Roaming' on its website. Stakeholders can offer their written comments on the issues stated in the paper by January 17, 2013.
Step towards implementing free roaming nationwide (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.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recently confirmed that it would 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.
Popular mobile service provider Bharti Airtel 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.
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