The telecom regulator has begun discussions with its overseas counterparts to reduce roaming charges for subscribers going abroad. To start with, the sectoral watchdog has started talks with SAARC countries, bar Pakistan, to lower roaming tariffs charged by carriers in the countries. For example, roaming charges in Nepal are as high as in the UK.
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“We have sounded out regulators-…we will hold an internal review this month,” said a senior Trai official. Trai feels that if it can convince its neighbouring countries to lower tariffs through bilateral talks, then the discussions with other countries — such as those in Europe, Africa and Latin America where tariffs are far higher than what India charges — can be undertaken with much ease.
Discussions with countries including Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Afghanistan, have been positive so far, officials added. A consultation on the issue is also being deliberated upon, but its movement forward will depend on the outcome of the discussions, they added.
Some of India’s neighbours have higher roaming charges compared to the US, the UK or Canada. Trai’s move is also aimed at spurring travellers to pick roaming packs from Indian operators over SIMs from foreign operators or depending on Wi-Fi hotspots, which eats into telco revenues.
Lowering the high charges for making calls and sending messages will directly impact revenue for smaller countries like Nepal—which gets more tourists from India than vice-versa — which is one of the key challenges to overcome through bilateral talks, said one of the officials. Another challenge will be whether carriers in other countries will come on the same page as their regulator to cut tariffs.
“If carriers in neighbouring countries lower their roaming charges, we can also do the same, which in turn can be beneficial for consumers,” said a senior executive at one of the carriers, asking not to be named.
Another executive said that Trai, through bilateral talks, can steer the discussion towards a more productive end than carriers themselves since the regulator of another country can persuade the local carriers in a better way than Indian carriers can, while doing their individual bilateral agreements, while deciding roaming rates. ( Via Economictimes)