The telecom regulator’s decision not to waive roaming charges has put the Department of Telecom in a spot.

The DoT had earlier announced a National Telecom Policy 2012 under which Communications and IT Minister Kapil Sibal promised that roaming charges would be abolished.

But with TRAI saying that it was not feasible to waive roaming charges fully, the DoT may not be able to fulfil its commitment. “One nation-free roaming is achieved in letter only and not in spirit,” a DoT official said when asked to respond to the TRAI’s latest order.

Sibal had earlier said that mobile users will be able to make phone calls at local call rates even while roaming. This was supposed to be implemented from October onwards. However, TRAI is the ultimate authority on tariff issues.

TRAI on Monday said a blanket waiver of mobile roaming charges is not feasible. The telecom regulator said such a move will hit operators by Rs 2,200 crore, and, in turn, force them to increase tariffs.

The regulator has instead made it mandatory for mobile operators to launch special vouchers for roaming users. Such vouchers are already in the market. The regulator brought down the ceiling tariff for roaming service by up to 57 per cent.

For example, operators could charge a maximum of Rs 1.75 per minute for incoming calls but can now collect 75 paise per minute. But this will not have any major impact on consumers as most operators are already offering cheaper tariffs.

(This article was published on June 20, 2013)
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