Telecom service providers seem to have won the first round in a battle with consumer groups on roaming charges at an open house held in New Delhi on Tuesday, as they convinced the industry regulator of the need to have another round of discussion on the issue, thus delaying the possible introduction of a ceiling on roaming rates.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has proposed to hold another round of discussions on roaming charges with the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and the Association of Universal Service Providers of India (AUSPI), the apex bodies representing telecom operators in the country.
Justifying the decision, TRAI chairman Nirpendra Misra told Hindustan Times, "I do not want decisions to be imposed on operators, but shared. We know the views of consumer groups, but the operators feel aggrieved. So we have to find the most acceptable solution."
At the open house, representatives of the Cellular Users Association of India (CUAI) the consumer group championing a ceiling on roaming tariffs, said the charges were unlikely to come down if 'forbearance' – allowing operators to fix their own tariffs without prior regulatory approval — was continued.
TRAI had called the meeting to discuss its paper which threw open a debate on whether networks where calls terminate should get prescribed charges or share revenue with originating networks.
Currently, operators levy a roaming charge varying from Rs 1.50 - Rs 3 per call. Despite the growth in number of subscribers, the operators have not reduced the rentals on roaming which is at Rs 49 whenever subscribers activate it, CUAI said.
But operators cited infrastructure cost as a key reason to argue against a ceiling on roaming charges.
SC Khanna secretary general of AUSPI said, "Our estimate is that a majority of the mobile subscribers move only within the circle and only a few roam out, and when the mobile service rates in the country are the lowest in the world, roaming should be considered an additional service."