Mobile operators including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Idea Cellular have already announced free roaming services and other players expected to follow suit.
According to industry sources, the incumbent operators have been in discussion to remove the roaming tariffs in a bid to take on Reliance Jio’s free voice services.
Roaming tariffs have been higher compared to domestic calls because when a user travels from one city to another his own operator may not have a network. This forces the operator to buy capacity from another operator that may have a stronger network in the area where the user is travelling to. Since the operator has to bear additional costs to ensure that the user gets coverage even when he travels, the charges for roaming have been higher.
However, most of the operators now have pan-India network and, therefore, the need to ride on someone else’s network is rare except in remote areas. Therefore, the operators can now afford to remove these charges albeit there will be some impact on their revenues.
Recently, Sunil Mittal, Chairman of Bharti Airtel, had said that the plan to eliminate domestic roaming fees will not just promote customer convenience by ending ‘bill shocks’ but also help boost usage by customers through adoption of network technologies to augment productivity, innovation and economic growth. The statement was made after operators in China announced end of roaming tariffs. “We are sure operators in other countries will take the cue from China’s example to usher in similar initiatives, in the interest of the customers,” Mittal had said.
Sashi Shankar, Chief Marketing Officer, Idea Cellular, said that backed by a pan-India mobile GSM & wireless broadband network with coverage spanning four lakh towns and villages, Idea is now set to enable over 200 million customers to use their mobile phones freely, without having to worry about roaming charges, while they travel anywhere in the country.