Issues need to be studied before implementing free roaming: Airtel CEO

The nation's eagerly awaiting the implementation of free roaming – an introduction it believes will not give them bill scares when travelling within the country. Popular mobile service provider Bharti Airtel, however, believes that issues like varied spectrum pricing and tariff in various circles need to be looked into before free roaming is implemented. 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. 


Over the past few months, talks surrounding the implementation of free roaming have been frequent. Reports recently 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. 

Porting worries! (Image credit: Getty Images)

Issues to deal with, before free roaming is implemented! (Image credit: Getty Images)



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. 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. 


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. 


Interestingly, when queried on the reduction of spectrum pricing for four circles, Kapor shared, "I am not in a position to comment." He, however, added that lower the prices, higher the participation, and that it is good for competition in the country. On whether Airtel would participate, Kapoor said, "we will figure it out."


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Published Date: Dec 10, 2012 18:55 PM | Updated Date: Dec 10, 2012 18:55 PM