Four days after announcing that telcos should not charge for roaming services, telecom minister Kapil Sibal said voice calls should be made free, too. “I personally believe that charging for voice is a tax on talking to people,” Sibal said while speaking at the CII broadband summit in New Delhi on Friday.
The minister asked mobile phone operators to charge for data rather than voice. “At the moment, revenue of industry depends on voice. It is time that the industry decides to move in a direction where revenues come from data and not from voice,” Sibal said.
But for that, the minister noted, the operators need to change their mindset. "The industry must move in that direction (making voice free) so that in years to come, talking to each other should not be taxed,” he said. At present, telecos earn more than 80 per cent of their revenues from voice-based services. Non-voice based services, though registering a healthy growth, still forms a small part of operators revenues.
Earlier this week, Sibal had said that roaming would be free for subscribers from 2013. The mobile service providers are likely to lose Rs 5,000 crore in revenues annually, if the government decides to do away with the roaming charges. At present, GSM operators such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and Aircel get about 10-12 per cent of their revenues from the roaming services, amounting to Rs 10,000-Rs 13,000 crore.