Subscribers of Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea travelling abroad will have to pay more as India’s two older mobile phone companies have increased their international roaming (IR) prices by as much as 20%, in a step to boost revenue and margins.
The latest pricing moves by the two telecom operators come soon after they unveiled minimum recharge plans and increased rates on some tariff plans. Experts add that going forward, there are likely to be more such tweaks in tariff plans — local and roaming — as incumbent telcos focus on getting back into the black over time.
SIM card provider Matrix, on its part, said it is hopeful that it can take advantage and grab 20% of the overseas travelling customer base from telcos by offering them prices lower than what operators are offering.
Airtel and Vodafone Idea’s bitter rival Reliance Jio, which offers a 4G VoLTE only network, has a limited international roaming presence, a fact that the older operators appear to be trying to cash in on, said experts. Jio has not made any changes to its plans.
International travellers, although a small percentage of subscribers, belong to the higher revenue generating bracket who need to be retained at any cost. Analysts say it is most important to retain or acquire these customers because they provide highest return on investments.
“This is not a surprise… some segments are less sensitive to tariff increase,” said Bharat Bhargava, partner, telecom advisory services for EY, adding that telcos are seeking “a reasonable return on their investment”. The international roaming segment has grown at a sharp 15% CAGR in the last two years, and is expected to grow another 15% in about two years.