Kapil Sibal in New Delhi on Monday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, Sept. 24: Telecom minister Kapil Sibal today said the government was set to do away with roaming charges from next year.
However, he did not give any time frame for implementing the policy. “From next year. Our secretary has told you that it will be free from next year,” Sibal told reporters at an industry event.
Once roaming charges are waived, users will be able to get incoming calls free of charge and make calls at local rates while travelling anywhere in the country.
Earlier this month, the finance ministry had written to the telecom department, asking for a road map to abolish the charges. While free roaming was announced in May, the telecom ministry is yet to implement it.
In May, the cabinet had approved National Telecom Policy 2012 that sought to do away with roaming charges and introduce a pan-India mobile permit (unified licence) that would enable operators to offer all kinds of communication services.
However, mobile companies are against abolishing roaming tariffs as this will impact their revenues.
Roaming charges account for about 8-10 per cent of the industry’s annual sales.
Analysts said while the consumer-friendly move would bring down the bills of frequent travellers, companies might adjust the tariffs to maintain the revenue flow.
According to Rajan Mathews of GSM lobby group, the Cellular Operators’ Association of India, it is a common international practice to adjust tariffs as the country moves from regional to national calling patterns.
Officials of the department of telecom (DoT) said before the implementation, they would have to take a decision on pan-India unified licensing.
It will also have to consider the regulator’s views on key issues such as a numbering plan and interconnection to facilitate free roaming.