India's telco regulator has said that it's "not practical" to eliminate roaming charges levied when local subscribers travel to other parts of the country using other carrier networks.
The decision by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was in contrast to earlier urgings by telecom minister Kapi Sibal, who said that roaming charges should be eliminated, reported The Times of India on Tuesday.
TRAI chairman Rahul Khullar said operators will not be able to recover their carriage costs. "Fully free roaming, which is home tariff equal to roaming tariff, plus incoming free, is simply not practical... It can't work," Khullar said.
India has 22 telecom zones, referred to as "circles," and the call and SMS rates increase when a subscriber travels, "roams," outside of their local zone.
While operators were free to set their own roaming prices, the telecom regulator has imposed a new maximum charge for local and STD calls made while roaming. The maximum roaming rate for outgoing calls is under two US cents per minute (1 rupee). While the charge to receive a call while roaming has been capped at about one cent per minute. TRAI said this represented about a 30 percent drop in roaming charges.
However, an investment note by Goldman Sachs said it did not expect any price relief for consumers. "The current tariffs for most packages in the market are largely in line with the new proposed ceilings, we do not expect most telcos to reduce tariffs to meet the new guidelines," it said.