Bharti Airtel is deciding on removing domestic roaming charges on its network for both voice and data services, as a competition to the rival Reliance Jio Infocomm, revealed a source.
“The company is all set to offer free incoming calls/ SMSes on national roaming and there will be no premium on outgoing calls,” the source opened up to Economic Times also adding that there wont be additional data charges for roaming users.
The move will benefit Airtel’s 268 million mobile customers, with the offers of free calling to all customers which is now limited to only a few Airtel users.
Besides, the move by Airtel is likely to pressurise rival Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, the country's No. 2 and 3 telcos, to follow similar offers to users in order to not loose their customers to other telecom service providers. in a bid to protect their subscriber base, already under threat from Jio's free voice and data offers, which includes free roaming.
Last October, Vodafone made incoming calls to its network free while on roaming. However, roaming charges on outgoing calls or on data usage continue to affect its customers.
But the sudden decision could affect Airtel’s revenue as roaming charges account for 3-4.5% share. But incumbents don't have too many options to ring fence their customer base from Jio.
Airtel had a 55% fall in net profit in the December quarter, its worst in four years, on a first-time drop in revenue, while Idea posted its first ever net loss since listing in 2007.
Standard tariffs, if an Airtel subscriber doesn't activate a roaming pack, are currently in line with the rates decided by telecom regulator. The standard rates are 80 paise per minute for a local call, Rs 1.15 per minute for an STD call and 45 paise per minute for an incoming call.
Airtel’s decision to exempt user of roaming charges follows Jio’s move to charge users from 1 April, though on discounted rates.
Prime members and those deciding to move to Jio by 31 March, will continue to get 1 GB of data a day and all of Jio's apps for Rs 303 a month and a one-time cost of Rs 99. Voice, including roaming, is free for life on Jio.