India does away with roaming with new telecoms policy

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The Indian Government has approved a new national telecoms policy that does away with roaming between telecom circles within the country and allows citizens to retain their phone number regardless of where they travel, without having to pay extra charges.

In addition, the new policy seeks to simplify licensing rules by prescribing a single licence for the whole country and separates licences from bandwidth.

Under the previous telecoms policy, consumers had to pay roaming charges when travelling between India’s 22 circles and were not able to use the same phone number in different circles, unless they paid for the privilege. For operators, spectrum licences were bundled together with bandwidth.

The new policy will be in effect for “around the next ten years”, according to the Cabinet, and replaces older regulation which has been in palce for over 12 years. The Cabinet also said that the policy aims to promote transparency in a sector that has been riddled with corruption.

However, consumers will have to wait for some time before roaming charges as details of how the new policy will be implemented are now being finalised by the Telecoms Commission and the Department of Telecom (DoT).

“The policy seeks to provide a predictable and stable policy regime for a period of about ten years,” read an official statement released after the Cabinet meeting.

“The policy will further enable taking suitable facilitatory measures to encourage existing service providers to rapidly migrate to the new regime in a uniformly liberalised environment with a level playing field.”

At the end of 2011, the DoT ordered mobile operators Bharti Airtel, Idea and Vodafone to end their roaming pact, after the three operators had entered into an agreement with one another to offer 3G mobile services in India’s circles in which they had failed to acquire spectrum in the country’s 2010 3G spectrum auction.

The Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Law Ministry and DoT had agreed that the operators’ roaming agreement was in violation of their telecom licences.

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