TRAI cuts roaming charges for calls, SMSes from July 1

New Delhi, June 17 (IANS) The telecom regulator Monday reduced national roaming calls and SMS tariff ceilings from next month and said it would allow telecom service providers to offer national mobile roaming to subscribers for a fixed fee from the same date.

However, GSM operators sounded their strong displeasure at the move because it had moved away from its position of forbearance to regulation on tariff with regard to SMS roaming.

The ceiling tariffs prescribed by TRAI in 2007 were Rs.1.40 per minute for outgoing calls and Rs.2.40 per minute for outgoing STD calls while on national roaming. These ceilings have been reduced to Re.1.00 per minute and Re.1.50 per minute, respectively.

Similarly, the ceiling tariffs for incoming calls while on national roaming have been reduced from Rs.1.75 per minute to Re.0.75 per minute.

Tariffs for outgoing SMS while on national roaming have now been capped: outgoing SMS-local at Re.1.00 per SMS and outgoing SMS-STD at Rs.1.50 per SMS. Incoming SMS will remain free of charge.

It said competitive pricing below the new ceiling levels is expected. It also planned to encourage Special Tariff Vouchers and Combo Vouchers to be permitted for roaming tariffs.

This exercise to review national roaming tariffs was initiated by TRAI earlier this year to move towards "One Nation-Free Roaming" throughout the country, as mentioned in the New Telecom Policy, 2012.

"With increased subscribers and usage, the costs associated with national roaming have declined, but not vanished. There are still real costs incurred in providing the national roaming facility," Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said here in a statement.

"Mandating a fully free roaming regime is simply not practicable at this juncture. Compelling a transition to a fully free national roaming regime would result in telecom service providers not being able to recover their costs from roamers. In turn, telecom service providers would pass these costs on to all consumers (predominantly non-roamers) through higher tariffs."

Rajan S Mathews, director general, COAI, told IANS that the association for GSM operators were "disappointed with TRAI because it has moved away from its position of forbearance on tariff with regard to SMS roaming. This change in position is disappointing."

"Earlier TRAI has left it to the market forces to decide on the rates. But now it is moving away from it and also intervening regarding price decisions."

Regarding the two types of tariff rates being fixed by TRAI, he said it could be beneficial for the consumers, but the industry is not sure how this will impact operators. "We have to observe for several weeks to understand its impact on operators."

The Association of United Telecom Service Providers of India - the body for CDMA operators - declined comment on this matter.

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