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Idea slashes global roaming tariffs for voice, data

India's Idea Cellular offers an attractive incentive for post-paid subscribers by reducing its international roaming tariffs for both voice and data, offering savings up to 95 percent. But local SIM cards may still be cheaper options.
Written by Nitin Puri, Contributor

Idea Cellular has slashed international voice tariffs by 80 percent and data tariffs by 95 percent for its post-paid subscribers.

Telecomlead.com reported that the Indian mobile operator will offer two roaming packs at 599 rupees (US$9.64) and 1,499 rupees (US$24.13), allowing its subscribers to roam in 40 of the most frequently traveled countries. The first pack comes with a validity of 10 days, while the second offering comes with a validity of 30 days. Furthermore, the 1,499-rupees pack includes 30 minutes of free incoming calls while roaming internationally.

If you ask me, though, the best thing to do when you're roaming internationally is to purchase a local SIM card. It's more affordable in the long run. However, getting a pre-paid SIM card in some countries isn't as easy as it is in India, and even then, in India, it now takes longer to have a pre-paid SIM card verified and activated.

I've traveled to Southeast Asia in the past and getting hold of a local SIM card, in most parts, was as simple as showing my passport, at which point a photocopy was made for internal records. In North America, though, it's not that easy. While you can get pre-paid SIM cards, it's usually bundled with a very basic phone. In other words, you end up paying more for a phone you don't need, and, the phone is also locked to the operator's network. Sure, you can take it back home and get it unlocked, but will most people want to deal with this hassle? Probably not.

That said, telecom operators do need to address international roaming rates, especially with apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat, and even Skype. Furthermore, if you have an Apple device, FaceTime is another option to communicate globally.

With all the free apps available on the market today, telco's revenues and profits clearly are going down as subscribers look at more viable options to remain connected while abroad. Furthermore, with most devices Wi-Fi-enabled and can eaily access the Internet--posing another issue for telcos.

Simply put, why would I roam and incur data charges when I can use the local Wi-Fi service, which in most cases is free, to begin with?

Idea is one of the first to offer these discounted voice and data tariffs from India, but it is not the only operator to do so. Another viable option is that provided by Matrix, which also offers a pre-paid international roaming service. The mobile operator has been around for some time and had aggressively advertised in the past. However, I don't think its offeriings were that popular to begin with as, again, most travelers can simply pop in a local SIM card upon arrival.

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