Roaming in India to cost 56% Less for mobile phone users

No more rental fees ¦ Incoming SMS free ¦ Call rates slashed

Some good news for mobile phone users: they will now pay much less in roaming charges, with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India ordering a steep cut in the tariffs by up to 56 per cent on Wednesday, and the rental for roaming being removed. At present, any cellphone subscriber who travels out side the home network is charged a rental of Rs 50 for national roaming services. For a GSM subscriber, an outgoing call could cost up to Rs 3.99 per minute while a CDMA user is charged anywhere between Re 1 to Rs 3.99, depending on the distance.

The new roaming charges, applicable to all prepaid and postpaid users of any service provider, will be Rs 1.40 for local calls, Rs 2.40 for STD calls and Rs 1.75 for incoming calls, according to a statement issued by the telecom regulator.

These changes will take effect from February 15.

All incoming SMS would be free while roaming, while charges for outgoing SMS are still under consideration, the Trai statement said.

Also to be abolished is a 15 per cent surcharge on airtime while roaming as well as a separate PSTN (public switched telephone network) charge. The Union minister for communications and information technology, Mr Dayanidhi Maran, welcomed the Trai order, calling it “essential”, but the major cellular phone companies appeared unhappy. The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which comprises the GSM companies, said the move was “unfair” as it would affect the telecom sector financially and restrict it in reaching out to the rural masses.

“The adverse financial impact on the industry of the reduction in roaming tariffs notified by Trai is expected to be to the tune of Rs 800900 crores,” said T.V. Ramachandran, COAI director-general. Mr Ramachandran added that this micromanagement of tariffs for value added services such as roaming would leave the service providers with no choice but to review their entire tariff structure in order to maintain the sustainability of their businesses.

Mr Ramachandran said that the decline in roaming tariffs would most likely necessitate an increase in local call tariffs as roaming tariffs were hitherto being priced at a level which allowed the operators to offer the overall most economically affordable services to their consumers.

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