Mobile phone users in India may soon enjoy free roaming and the option of keeping their numbers while changing their operators when they shift to other states.
“Achieve One Nation – full Mobile Number Portability and work towards one nation – free roaming,” is one of objectives of the Draft National Telecom Policy 2011. The draft policy was unveiled by the Union Minister of Communications and Information, Kapil Sibal, on Monday.
“It is now imperative to move towards convergence between telecom, broadcast and IT services, networks, platforms, technologies and overcome the existing segregation of licensing, registration and regulatory mechanisms in these areas to enhance affordability, increase access, delivery of multiple services and reduce cost,” Sibal said while unveiling the policy documents.
While roaming rates have come down drastically over the years, with Tata Docomo even making it free recently, other operators continue to charge for incoming calls. Outgoing calls during roaming (traveling to other circles) are charged even higher. Most operators charge Rs 1.5 per minute for outgoing and Rs 1 for incoming while roaming.
People who have transferable jobs, such as central government employees, defence and paramilitary personnel and also people in the private sector like engineers who are involved in project implementation, will benefit the most from free roaming.
Telecom operators might oppose free roaming due to losses in revenue and may hike STD rates as well.
Meanwhile, the Draft National Telecom Policy said that the government will encourage “indigenous manufacturing of cost effective customer end terminals and devices including mobile devices, SIM cards with enhanced features etc.”
The policy also envisioned that it would “reposition the mobile phone from a mere communication device to an instrument of empowerment that combines communication with proof of identity, fully secure financial and other transaction capability, multi-lingual services and a whole range of other capabilities that ride on them and transcend the literacy barrier.”
The policy document said that the government will protect the consumer by promoting informed consent, transparency and accountability in quality of service, tariff, usage etc.