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TRAI fears discord on roaming during meet

TRAI's senior officials are aware that the discord during interaction will be on roaming, reports M Rajendran.

india Updated: Jan 01, 2007 18:14 IST

As the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) prepares to hold an 'Open House' session with telephone subscribers in the capital on Tuesday, its senior officials are aware that the biggest source of discord during the interaction is bound to be - roaming charges.

'Roaming' is the facility enjoyed by mobile users which enables them to make and receive calls, send text messages and access all other services even when they carry their mobiles outside the geographical coverage area of the network to which they subscribe. As the subscriber moves out he is automatically transferred to one of the networks in the area he is visiting. 
 
Currently different operators levy different roaming charges within the country. These can vary from Rs 1.50 to Rs 3 per call - made or received - depending on the network. There are no rules or limits laid down.
 
Consumer groups are  naturally agitated. One such, the Cellular Phone Users Association of India (CUAI) has been pressing TRAI to stop displaying 'forbearance' - as the practice of letting operators fix their own tariffs in telecom parlance - and fix a ceiling tariff. "Consumers should not be made to pay more than the cost incurred by operators on providing roaming facilities," maintained the CUAI in a recent letter to the TRAI.
 
Predictably enough, the cellular operators - be they private or government owned - led by organisations like the Association of Unifed Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI) and the Cellular Mobile Operators Association of India (COAI) have strongly pitched for continuation of forbearance for roaming.
 
A telecom consultant, who did not wish to be identified, since he is involved in the process of suggesting the roaming tariff for a telecom operator, questioned the very rationale of some services slapping roaming charges. "Operators like BSNL, AirTel and Reliance are national operators with networks all over the country," he pointed out. "Why should they impose roaming charges at all, since they never have to transfer a travelling subscriber to any other network?" In countries like France and Germany, he noted, there are no roaming charges. 
 
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had brought out a consultation paper on roaming last November. The key issue it addressed was whether, in the case of a subscriber using the roaming facility, the terminating network service provider should get only the prescribed termination charges, or whether there should be any revenue share between this provider and the network to which the subscriber is temporarily transferred. No final decision in the matter has been reached. 

When asked what is in store for both the consumer and the operators in the matter of roaming, Nripendra Misra, Chairman TRAI responded, "The consumer can expect an affordable price with no compromise on the quality of service."