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Aircel Goes Against The Grain With Free Roaming


While most other telecom operators are opposing the imposition of free national roaming by the Indian government, Aircel has gone against the grain by launching a tariff voucher which gives users the same rate of 1p/second for voice, free incoming calls while roaming, local and national SMS at Re 1, and the same rate for data applicable across the country. Note that this is available through a tariff voucher, priced at Rs 39 per month (in Delhi), so it isn’t exactly “free roaming”. Free incoming calls while roaming are a welcome change, though.

If the Indian government imposes free roaming – expected in March 2013, Aircel may not be able to charge this additional fee. Free roaming in imminent, since it’s a part of the Indian governments New Telecom Policy, alongwith national Mobile Number Portability. Not a question of if, but when.

While the move is welcome, and it might help Aircel acquire a certain profile of users or prevent churn out of its system for the time being. The availability of mobile number portability should ease the process of changing numbers for customers who want to shift; customers could also get an additional Aircel number.

In our opinion, it is unlikely to have a significant impact on other telcos, or on their tariff policy, because other factors like network availability and quality also impact such decisions. Many telcos, including Reliance Communications, are shifting focus towards retaining higher value customers, often allowing customers who are merely looking for the lowest rates or the best deals, churn out.

At the same time, most of the major telecom operators – especially the cartel-like group of Airtel, Vodafone and Idea cellular are increasing tariffs, so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. We’ll have to see if there is a tangible impact on Aircel’s subscriber additions over the next few months.

Aircel currently accounts for around 5.7% of India’s active mobile connection base, with around 40.78 million connections of India’s 707.31 million connections. In November 2012, Aircel reported a decline in its user base by 31,758.