Nationwide free roaming is one step closer to being a reality, with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) likely to soon initiate consultation process for formulating recommendations.
Subscribers currently pay up to Rs. 1 per minute while moving from one circle to another.
"These are matters that are still to be decided," said Rahul Khullar, chairman, TRAI. "The question of whether national roaming should be free is a tariff-related issue."
Any issue related to tariff comes under the purview of the regulator and free roaming has a direct impact on tariff, said Khullar. "It is a matter on which TRAI is competent to take a decision. Very soon, you will see us take the first move in that direction. There will be a public consultation preceeding any final decision in the matter."
Operators want the regulator to conduct a thorough study before implementing the nationwide roaming policy.
"How can tariff for a subscriber in Bihar be same as that for a subscriber in Mumbai given that spectrum in Mumbai is much costlier than that in Bihar," said Rajan Mathews, director-general, Cellular Operators Association of India.
He also pointed out that since licences were issued circle-wise, there will be security implications if it is not implemented properly.
"We want telecom regulatory authority of India should conduct a detailed study on its various aspects," said Mathews.
Telecom minister Kapil Sibal had earlier announced that free roaming would be implemented by next year.