TRAI lowers roaming charges for calls, SMSs

NEW DELHI, June 17: Telecom regulator TRAI today announced reduction in national mobile phone roaming charges, but said there will be no free national roaming as of now.
The sectoral regulator has also come out with conditional free national roaming plans, a move that will bring down cellphone roaming charges.
The changes will come into effect from next month.
“TRAI has reduced ceilings for national roaming calls and SMS and instituted a new regime for providing flexibility to telecom service providers to customise tariffs for national roamers through STVs (Special Tariff Vouchers) and Combo Vouchers,” the regulator said in a statement.
It has also mandated two types of free national roaming plans to be provided by all telecom service providers. These changes will come into effect from July 1, 2013, it added.
“With increased subscribers and usage, the costs associated with national roaming have declined, but not vanished. There are still real costs incurred in providing the national roaming facility.
“Mandating a fully free roaming regime is simply not practicable at this juncture. Compelling a transition to a fully free national roaming regime would result in telecom service providers not being able to recover their costs from roamers,” the regulator said.
In turn, telecom service providers would pass these costs on to all consumers (predominantly non-roamers) through higher tariffs, it added.
The ceiling tariffs prescribed by TRAI in 2007 were Rs 1.40 per minute for outgoing local calls and Rs 2.40 per minute for outgoing STD calls while on national roaming. These ceilings have been reduced to Re 1 per minute and Re 1.50 per minute, respectively, it said.
Similarly, the ceiling tariffs for incoming calls while on national roaming have been reduced from Rs 1.75 per minute to 75 paise per minute, it added.
Tariffs for outgoing SMS while on national roaming, which were earlier under forbearance, have now been capped: outgoing SMS (local) at Re 1 per SMS and outgoing SMS (STD) at Rs 1.50 per SMS. Incoming SMS will remain free of charge, TRAI said.
“TRAI feels that the best way forward is to establish a tariff regime in which roamers self-select themselves out and so minimise the impact on the rest of the subscriber community,” it said.
In working towards free roaming, TRAI has also borne in mind the need to keep costs to roamers at a minimum, it added.
TRAI has decided that STVs and Combo Vouchers which were hitherto allowed only for home tariffs can be permitted for roaming tariffs. This will give the service providers the greatest possible flexibility in customising tariffs for their roaming subscribers.
TRAI has also mandated the service providers to offer special plans for roaming subscribers in which subscribers can avail of partially free roaming, or fully free roaming in lieu of payment of fixed charges, it said.
All subscribers will benefit from the reduced ceilings: competitive pricing below the new ceiling levels is expected. The provision for STVs and Combo Vouchers as well as special tariff plans for roaming tariff will allow the service providers to cater to the specific roaming needs of different customer segments, it added.
The new regime provides reduced ceilings and free roaming facilities for roamers without impacting customers who do not use the roaming facility, TRAI said.
The present exercise to review national roaming tariffs was initiated by TRAI earlier this year in the context of decline in costs and the declared intent in the New Telecom Policy-2012 to move towards One Nation-Free Roaming throughout the country.
National Telecom Policy, 2012 aims to abolish roaming charges and allow mobile phone subscribers to use the same number across the country without having to pay extra charges for services once they are outside their telecom circle. (PTI)