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Tough call: Roaming charges within India may go soon
Published on 14 Oct. 2010 10:55 PM IST
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Mobile consumers may soon be spared from shelling out roaming charges within India. A high-level Department of Telecom (DoT) panel that was asked to come up with strategic changes for the communications industry has recommended that the country be considered as a single region, a move that will spare customers from paying a roaming fee when traveling, stated Times news.
Currently, the country is divided into 22 circles and consumers pay roaming charges when they make or receive calls outside their home circle. This DoT panel has recommended that doing away with the circle concept will help deal with the roaming issues.
The panel said that if the entire country could not be considered as a single circle, then the country can be divided into four regions. In this case, it will help consumers avoid roaming charges when traveling within a region like say the all the Southern states.
Sector regulator Trai will be asked to work out the modalities for this. The panel has however not specified any time frame for the merger of all circles into a single entity from the licensing perspective.
Mobile phone companies will oppose any moves to do away with roaming charges as this fee constitutes up to 10% of the industry’s revenues. All telcos combined garner about Rs.12,000 crore annually from roaming charges.
Under current rules, a mobile phone company can charge a maximum of Rs.1.40 per minute for a local call for a mobile user traveling outside his home network, while for STD calls, the limit is Rs.2.40 per minute for all outgoing and Rs.1.75 per minute for all incoming calls while on roaming, irrespective of the distance.
But, existing rates are far lower than these caps imposed by Trai in 2007. The tariff wars that gripped the sector in 2009 had also resulted in some operators slashing their roaming tariffs.
The panel has also sought that cellular operators be allowed to offer financial services on mobile phones, while adding that the move would speed up the government’s efforts to ensure that the weaker sections of the society have access to such facilities at affordable costs.
It has also said that the DoT must soon come up with a policy for renewal for telecom licenses. The telecoms department panel was headed by AK Srivastave (DDG-AS) and its members include GP Srivastava (DDG-CS), Nitin Jain (DDG-DS), RK Pathak (DDG-IP) and Vinod Kumar (Director-AS-II). ET reviewed a copy of their recommendations to the communications ministry.
The panel has also called for a national policy on setting up telecom towers. “The policy, which will be framed by Trai, will apply to cellsites or telecom towers in all cities and will address issues such as the minimum distance these units must maintain from schools, hospitals and tourist attractions. It will also specify the maximum radiation levels for these masts and state methodologies that will be used to measure it,” said an official.
This will also mark the first attempt in India to regulate the telecoms towers space in the country.

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