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General News: How Jio's free voice offers forced Airtel,Vodafone,Idea & Aircel to abolish roaming - Printable Version

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How Jio's free voice offers forced Airtel,Vodafone,Idea & Aircel to abolish roaming - nairrk - 04-15-2017

How Reliance Jio's free voice offers forced Airtel, Vodafone, Idea & Aircel to abolish roaming charges

KOLKATA: Mobile phone users, especially those who travel within India, would be greeted with a lower bill for April as India’s major telcos — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Aircel —-have taken giant steps towards abolishing roaming in their attempt to match Reliance Jio Infocomm’s offers.

Starting April 1, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Aircel have already abolished incoming charges while roaming. Newcomer Reliance Jio has made voice calls free for life, which includes no charges on incoming or outgoing calls while roaming on any network.

Market leader Airtel has also said it won't charge a premium on outgoing calls while roaming, and others would have no choice but to follow suit, meaning mobile phone users can now carry their mobile numbers anywhere in the country, talk freely and pay home rates, which in turn, would translate into lower monthly phone bills.

Experts though note that incumbent telcos could see a further dip in voice average revenue per user (ARPUs) in the coming months, starting with the first quarter of this fiscal year which began April 1as roaming accounts for 3 to 4.5% of a telco’s revenue, though the fall will partly offset by likely rising call volumes.

Nitin Soni, director at ratings agency, Fitch, agreed that consumers would be the “biggest beneficiaries” with the death of domestic roaming as their “bill shocks would end”, which in turn, would boost voice usage levels. “Domestic roaming as a concept got pretty much killed ever since Jio decided that voice would be perceived as free by consumers,” Mayuresh Joshi, fund manager at Angel Broking, told ET.

Vodafone and Idea, he said, will have no choice but to respond to the disruptive moves taken by Jio and Airtel on the domestic roaming front, and price their voice and data rates accordingly.

Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea did not reply to ET’s queries on potential revenue losses triggered by the abolishing of domestic roaming charges. A top industry expert, who did not wish to be named, backed the view, saying “a complete equilibrium in domestic roaming charges is imminent,” especially since all serious telcos are rapidly seeing

“India as a single telecom geography and not 22 separate circles.” Fitch’s Soni also feels domestic roaming has rapidly gone out of fashion amid surging data consumption.

“With consumers increasingly using popular OTT (over-the-top) voice communication apps such as WhatsApp, Skype to FaceBook-Messenger for domestic long-distance calls, national roaming as a concept is fast losing relevance,” he said.

He, however, said that there will be some revenue losses in the coming quarters for incumbents. But the industry executive cited above noted that the fall in roaming revenue could be partially offset by an increase in overall call volumes coupled with a rise in the number of domestic roamers.