‘Free’ roaming comes into effect, Airtel leads charge
While Airtel has taken the lead in rolling out the free roaming plan, other operators are yet to follow suit.
The Birlas-owned Idea Cellular is expected to make an announcement about roaming charges in a day or two, whereas Reliance Communications, the third-biggest operator of India by subscribers, has did not give any clear commitment.
When contacted, a Vodafone spokesperson declined to confirm if the company was issuing any statement with details of its free roaming offer today. However, the company is expected to follow in the footsteps of Airtel.
“We cannot commit as to if and when we will make announcement,” said the spokesperson.
On June 17, Trai had announced that telecom operators can allow free national roaming if users pay a fixed fee. This order comes into effect from July 1. However, Trai has also said that completely free national roaming, as envisioned by telecom minister KapilSibal, is not practical.
Trai chairman Rahul Khullar said operators have been mandated to provide two types of roaming plan for customers.
“In one case, charges on incoming will be free but a fixed charge will be levied and in the other regime you don’t give free incoming and there will be no fixed charges. The philosophy of authority is let customers decide what they want… competition in the market will help in driving tariffs down,” he said.
The regulator also reduced the national roaming charges by up to 57%. The cap on roaming charges prescribed by Trai in 2007 is Rs 1.40 per minute for outgoing local calls and Rs 2.40 per minute for outgoing STD calls.
This has now been reduced to Re 1 per minute for outgoing local calls and Rs 1.50 per minute for outgoing STD calls. Similarly, the ceiling for incoming calls while on national roaming has been reduced from Rs 1.75 per minute to 75 paise per minute under the new order.