India, Pakistan in talks for allowing mobile roaming

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on October 12, 2012 Published on October 12, 2012

Soon mobile users in India and Pakistan may be able to roam in each others’ countries.

The two Governments are in talks to remove all hurdles to enable operators to offer roaming services according to senior functionaries in the Ministry of Commerce. The Department of Telecom is backing the proposal but the Home Ministry is yet to give clearance on the Indian side.

Roaming services between the two countries have been banned since 2004 after Indian security agencies raised concerns around misuse by anti-social elements. While terrorism was one of the biggest issues, Indian agencies also raised cricket betting as another reason to ban roaming.

Monitoring agencies

But now technology allows security agencies to better monitor mobile users. “Monitoring agencies will be able to track specific users if the need arises better if the user is on a mobile network,” said Rajan Mathews, Director General, Cellular Operators Association of India.

Home Ministry has put in place stringent monitoring laws in place wherein all telecom operators are required to give traffic details of specific users on a real time basis. The security agencies are monitoring about 10,000 phones and 1,000 emails at any given point of time.

Mathews, however, added that the move will not have any significant revenue implications for operators. “Roaming is anyway used by a small percentage of the total subscriber base and then there are not too many people travelling between India and Pakistan to make a significant addition to the operators’ revenues,” he said.

Subscriber info

If roaming is allowed, the two countries will have to put in place a mechanism to share subscriber information for security purposes.

For example, Indian security agencies have repeatedly curbed services in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East whenever there is trouble. They can do so because the services in J&K are being controlled by Indian operators. The concern is that if roaming services are permitted, Pakistani elements can sneak mobile connections into Indian territory.

Published on October 12, 2012
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