Customers will be paying up to 23 per cent less for calls and up to 75 per cent less for texts while roaming from May 1, after the telecom regulator slashed ceiling rates.
On roaming, for outgoing local calls, a ceiling of 80 paise per minute has been fixed from Rs 1 a minute earlier, and Rs 1.15 per minute from Rs 1.5 a minute for subscriber trunk dialling (STD) calls.
For incoming calls on roaming, a ceiling of 45 paise per minute has been fixed from the earlier 75 paise. For a local text, it is 25 paise compared to Rs 1 before; and for STD texts, 38 paise from Rs 1.50 earlier, according to Telecom Regulator Authority of India (Trai).
It has also mandated telecom service providers to offer a special roaming plan.
Rates for national roaming services were earlier revised in 2013. Following this order, subscribers will not be able to avail of schemes that allowed them to make calls and send messages while roaming at home circle rates.
Hemant Joshi, partner, Deloitte, said, “These ceiling tariffs (rates) are good for the consumer but would impact the profitability of telcos, given the high price they have to pay for spectrum and other high costs of new technology rollout. Revenue from SMS was reducing anyway due to one-time password (OTP) messenger apps and these new ceilings would further hit the telcos revenue from roaming SMS.This will bring into focus the debate on net-neutrality.”
Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Director General Rajan Mathews said, “Revision of roaming charges should have been left to market forces. However, it’s noteworthy that Trai differentiated between local and roaming charges, as there is an STD interconnect charges component which has to be recovered”.
COAI had earlier said the ceiling rates for roaming services should not be lower than the prevailing rack rate of home service area.
Trai earlier said the new tariff regime shall be subject to review after a year. A draft telecommunication rate (60 the Amendment) order, 2015 was issued on February 2 for comments of the stakeholders.
The regulator has removed the roaming plan, RTP and RTP-FR, under which the consumer paid the same charges as his home circle or service area while in roaming. Under ‘Roaming Tariff Plan (RTP)’ clause, the charges for outgoing voice calls and outgoing SMS, both local as well as long distance (inter-circle), did not change with the location of the subscriber within the country.
The ‘RTP-FR’ plan allowed the subscriber to pay same charges as his home service area for outgoing local and STD calls as well as SMS during roaming. In addition, incoming calls were free on roaming in lieu of fixed charges under RTP-FR.
The regulator has mandated operators to introduce a new ‘Special Roaming Tariff Plan’, which will offer only free incoming calls on payment of a fixed charge, but do away with other features.