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Free Roaming Within India From March 2013

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Earlier this year there were reports that roaming charges for mobile users when traveling within India will be abolished from next year and now the telecom department is likely to ask operators to undertake the same from March.

As expected, the mobile phone companies are against government’s plans to do away with roaming charges, which contributes to 10 per cent of their revenues and any such implementation could offset the tariff charges to bear the loss.

By March, the department also wants to expand the mobile number portability (MNP) provision and allow consumers to retain their numbers when they move to a new city or any location in the country without having to pay roaming charges. Currently, MNP facility, that allows customers to retain their number while switching operators, is restricted to a circle.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the body representing mobile phone companies on the GSM platform such as Vodafone and Bharti Airtel, has criticised government’s idea to do away with roaming charges, and has maintained that the DoT must first sort out a slew of policy-related issues, including migration to the unified licence, before asking telcos to do away with this charge.

Mobile phone companies believe reasons like higher tariffs, security threat should be enough to retain the concept of STD and roaming charges. Mobile phone companies also say that removal of roaming charges would lead to free-flow of SIMs across circles on a permanent basis.

Telcos have said that end of STD as a concept would lead to huge revenue impact to the operators, which the industry would not be able absorb, especially in the wake of high spectrum costs.

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