One nation, one number from February

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 14, 2012 06:53 hrs

Come February, mobile users would be able to retain their numbers even if they relocate from one telecom circle to another. That's not all; early 2013 onwards, when travelling out of their home city, they would not even have to shell out the hefty roaming charges that swell their bills.

Speaking at a telecom summit organised by industry chamber Ficci, IT & Communications Minister Kapil Sibal today announced the government was planning to roll out the nationwide mobile number portability (MNP) from February 2013. Also, he said, consumers would not have to pay roaming charges from early next year.

Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Director-General Rajan Mathews said the move to allow operators to offer the same number across all circles would help relocating subscribers. "It will also help existing operators, as it is likely a subscriber would prefer to stay on with a mobile operator if he gets to remain the same number. But the number of relocating subscribers is one-two per cent of the total mobile user base. So, it may not have have a very significant impact on operators."

Nationwide MNP
1-2% of mobile user base to benefit
Free roaming
(What the users won't have to pay)
  • Outgoing calls: Applicable call charges + roaming charge ranging from 75 paise to Rs 1 per minute
  • Incoming calls: Roaming charge ranging from 75 paise to Rs 1 a minute
904.23 million: Total number of wireless subscribers (as on Oct 31)
10-12%: Proportion of subscribers availing of roaming services
Rs 1.30 lakh cr: Telcos' estimated income from roaming charges
Rs 13,500 cr: Telcos' likely revenue loss in absence of roaming services

Operators say they would require around $10 million to build the enabling structure for nationwide MNP. The service would help pan-Indian players gain subscribers at the cost of the operators whose customers relocate to states they are not present in.

Free roaming is likely to benefit over 12 per cent of mobile users. But operators' bottom lines would be impacted, as they would pay the national long-distance cost. Mathews said operators could take a hit of Rs 13,500 crore and many might be forced to raise the normal charges to offset the impact.

Other experts, however, say the hit telcos would take would be neutralised within two years as cheaper call rates would encourage consumers to talk more while travelling.

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