There is good news for international travellers. You don’t have to look away from your own telecom operator to get special SIM cards to make calls cheaper when you are roaming overseas.
Bharti Airtel, the country’s largest telecom service provider, is set to launch its own product branded Airtel World SIM that would reduce incoming call charges by 90 per cent and outgoing calls by 66 per cent.
Other telecom service providers such as BSNL and Vodafone are also likely to follow suit. But the companies did not offer any comment.
“This is an attractive service. Let us see the details. I think all of us will have to offer a similar service,” said an official at one of the rival companies who did not want to be identified.
Currently, mobile subscribers have to pay very high international roaming tariffs. For example, a one-minute call from the US to India costs Rs. 150 per minute for an Indian subscriber. Similarly, a one-minute incoming call in the US while roaming costs about Rs. 100 per minute.
For an Airtel World SIM holder, the tariff for a one-minute call from the US will be only Rs. 41 per minute and incoming calls would cost Rs. 10 per minute. The SIM will cost Rs. 500. The service is due to start on Saturday.
Currently, international travellers acquire SIM cards of companies like Matrix, which created a successful intermediary business segment in global travellers.
It reduces roaming tariffs by about 60 per cent.
However, the new SIM card comes with new number while Airtel will link that to a forwarding facility on the local number, enabling easier links for travellers.
It had become tedious for travellers to hand out new numbers to contacts and the current system also requires a new SIM, and hence a new number, for each country.
“For the subscribers of Airtel World SIM, the same SIM will work in all the country,” said Shireesh Joshi, director — marketing (mobile services), Bharti Airtel. There is no need for a subscriber to give the new number to anyone.
Moreover, it is only a local call for someone calling an Airtel World SIM holder. In the case of companies like Matrix, a caller has to make ILD calls to talk to the user.