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Roaming goes cheaper: Trai cuts SMS, call tariffs

Roaming goes cheaper: Trai cuts SMS, call tariffs
NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has cut ceiling tariffs for national roaming calls and text messages and mandated operators to bring the changes into effect from May 1, 2015. It also asked carriers to offer a special roaming tariff plan.
Trai has set the ceiling for outgoing local calls at 80 paise minute from Re 1 a minute while it reduced the calling rate to Rs 1.15 per minute from Rs 1.5 a minute for STD calls.

Incoming calls on roaming will be charged at most 45 paise per minute, down from 75 paise charged earlier, while a maximum of 25 paise per will be charged for a local SMS sent compared to Rs 1 charged before, and to 38 paise per for STD SMS sent, down from Rs 1.50.

"All subscribers will benefit from the reduced ceilings, competitive pricing below the new ceiling levels is expected," the regulator said in a statement.

With the new structure, call charges will fall by 20% while messaging rates will decline by 75%, benefitting millions of subscribers who make calls or send messages while travelling outside their home circles.

The regulator also mandated telcos to provide a special roaming tariff plan, where incoming voice calls while on national roaming will be free, and telcos may levy a fixed charge, if any. But Trai added that telcos need not provide two rate plans to their roaming customers — one with an option of free incoming calls and another in which each incoming call was billed — which were made mandatory back in July 2013.

Trai though has increased the ceiling tariffs for outgoing local and STD calls from 65 paise a minute and Rs 1 per minute, respectively, tariffs that it had proposed in February this year. Leading telecom companies had asked the regulator to consider raising the ceiling price on outgoing local calls during roaming, ET had reported on March 12.

However, the mandate will still impact top carriers. As per Trai data, about Rs 8,000 crore, or 6% of the industry's total revenue, comes from roaming, most of which goes to Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea, which have more affluent customers, brokerage Credit Suisse had said.

It estimated a 34% hit (on 65 paise a minute call rate ceiling) on revenue if the drop in tariffs is not compensated by an increase in usage or volumes and quipped that customer behaviour would not allow this arbitrage to continue.

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