The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) proposes to comprehensively review the existing tariff framework for national roaming services with the objective of phasing out roaming charges across the nation.
The National Telecom Policy - 2012 has mentioned a review of roaming charges as one of its strategies with the ultimate objective of removing the roaming charges across the nation.
TRAI has now released a pre-consultation paper seeking stakeholders' inputs on the broad framework of tariff for national roaming services so as to enable the preparatioin of a detailed comprehensive consultation paper.
TRAI has sought views of stakeholders on various cost components to be considered, the manner of recovery of cost in case incoming calls are to be made free, tariff for video calls and SMS while roaming, need for permitting special tariff vouchers for roaming subscribers etc.
All incoming calls received by a subscriber while roaming incorporates various cost elements like carriage charge for carrying the call from the home network of the roaming subscriber to the visited network, termination charge for terminating the call in the visited network and incremental CAPEX and OPEX for infrastructure dedicated for roaming.
An outgoing local call while roaming incorporates cost elements like origination charge for originating the call in the visited network, termination charge for terminating the call in the called network and incremental CAPEX and OPEX for infrastructure dedicated for roaming.
An outgoing STD call while roaming incorporates costs like origination charge for originating the call in the visited network, carriage charge for carrying the call from the visited network to the called network, termination charge for terminating the call in the called network and incremental CAPEX and OPEX for infrastructure dedicated for roaming.
The tariff for roaming services, which was initially kept under forbearance, was determined for the first time through the Telecommunication Tariff (18th Amendment) Order, 2002. The order had prescribed levy of a monthly access charge, in addition to the usage charges. Subsequently, the Telecommunication Tariff (44th Amendment) Order issued on 24 January 2007 revised the tariff for roaming services.
The regimes governing some of the cost components, which formed part of the national roaming charges have changed since that time. The access deficit charges regime has been phased out in 2008 and termination charges lowered from Rs0.30 to Rs0.20 per minute in the year 2009.
The issues for pre-consultation include:
* Should the present cost-based approach for determining tariffs for national roaming continue?
- In case the response is in the affirmative, what cost components should be included in the determination of such charges? In case the response is in the negative, suggest the alternative approach for determining tariff for national roaming supported by a detailed methodology.
- Under the calling party pays (CPP) regime, incoming calls are free for mobile subscribers while they are in their home service area. However, the incoming calls while roaming are not free as the costs involved, viz, carriage charge for carrying the call from the home network to the visited network, mobile termination charge for termination in the visited network, and the incremental cost for roaming have to be paid by the roaming subscriber who receives the call. In case the burden of these costs is removed from the roaming subscriber, these costs will remain unrecovered. Should the burden of the cost for the incoming call be removed from the roaming subscriber? If yes, how should this cost be recovered? Would removal of the burden of the cost for the incoming call while roaming lead to an increase in overall call traffic across the country?
- Under the existing telecom licensing regime, licences are issued separately for each service area. Service providers levy a roaming tariff for any usage by a subscriber outside the home service area. The visited network in which a subscriber is roaming is compensated by the home network in accordance with the terms and conditions of the roaming arrangement between them. While some service providers have a pan-India presence, others operate in only a few service areas. As per the existing terms and licensing conditions, it is not mandatory for a service provider to enter into roaming arrangements with other service providers. Besides, there is no mandate on the terms and conditions of roaming arrangements. Therefore, it is possible for a particular service provider to demand a higher rate for allowing roaming facility to the subscribers of other service providers. This situation results in the roaming subscribers having to pay a differential higher rate for off-net roaming. Traffic flows in terms of in-roaming and out-roaming are also asymmetrical between various service providers. If the difference between the tariff while roaming and the tariff in the home network is done away with, how would such an arrangement operate within the framework of the present licensing regime? What are the likely issues that may arise upon its implementation?
- The TTO (44th Amendment) does not specifically prescribe the tariff for video calls while roaming. Recently the service providers have started offering video calls while roaming, the tariff of which is generally comparable to the tariff of video calls in the home service areas. Is there a need to prescribe a tariff for video calls while roaming? If the answer is in the affirmative, what methodology should be adopted for calculation of such tariff? In case cost based tariffs are to be prescribed, the service providers may kindly provide the cost data and costing methodology to be used.
- The TTPO (44th Amendment) has not prescribed any ceiling for SMS while roaming except that the incoming SMS while roaming shall be free. The generally prevailing rates offered by the service providers are Rs1.50 for a local/ STD SMS while roaming. In some cases, the charge for an outgoing SMS while roaming exceeds the corresponding charges for outgoing voice call while roaming. Should TRAI also prescribe a tariff for SMS while roaming? If the response is in the affirmative, what method of calculation for such tariff should be adopted? In case cost-based tariffs are to be prescribed, the service providers may kindly provide the cost data and costing methodology to be adopted.
- The subscribers widely use special tariff vouchers (STVs) to avail free/concessional usage in their home service areas. As per the prevailing tariff framework, no fixed charge is permitted for accessing roaming service or in lieu of free/concessional roaming usage. The service providers could be permitted to offer special tariff vouchers (STVs) for roaming. Such tariff vouchers would be optional. Would it be appropriate to allow special tariff vouchers for roaming subscribers?
- Is there any other relevant issue related to 'tariff for national roaming' which the Authority should keep in mind while carrying out the proposed comprehensive review of the framework for tariff of national roaming services?