Ravi Shankar Prasad

Telecom and IT minister RS Prasad has announced over Twitter today that BSNL’s free roaming has come into effect from today:

Earlier: Communication and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has announced in a press conference today that BSNL users will have free roaming on their mobile phones starting June 15. Spectrum sharing and trading policy will be given to the Cabinet this month, with full mobile number portability (MNP) which will be operable in July. The press conference was held to address the one year completion of the NDA Government. In order to roll out complete MNP, the government had to allow customers to dial a number without adding “0” or “+91” to the mobile number. Without this step, implementing full MNP would take 8-9 months more, the COAI had said last month.

After proposing a slash in roaming call and SMS charges in March, the TRAI reduced the ceiling tariffs for national roaming calls and SMSes and had mandated telcos to offer a special roaming tariff plan to pre-paid and post-paid subscribers in April, to come into effect from May. Following these instructions, BSNL had adopted the new roaming call charges. In this special roaming tariff plan, incoming voice calls would be free after and if there was a payment of fixed charge.

In a bid to revive the dying landlines in April this year, BSNL had started offering free unlimited calling from landlines to anywhere in India (landlines and mobiles), which would come into effect from May 1. The unlimited calling scheme would work during 9pm and 7am and be applicable for 6 months to check for response and review. Interestingly, despite the fact that BSNL/MTNL landlines take up a major chunk of landline phone subscribers in India, the landline usage in the country has been on the decline for quite some time now.

In the same month, public WiFi became a reality in South India with Hyderabad getting BSNL WiFi internet across 30 areas in the city. While Hyderabad was the first city to get this feature in the south zone, other major cities of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana will see connectivity in the next 2-3 years.

In October last year, the Government of Telangana had tied-up with Bharti Airtel to launch public Wi-Fi hotspots in Hyderabad. 17 hotspot locations had been launched on a pilot basis across Hyderabad between Cyber Towers to Madhapur Police Station, Cyber Towers to Kothaguda Junction and Cyber Towers to Raheja Mindspace Circle.

Our take:

The next logical step for BSNL is to fix its broadband issues. BSNL’s wide reach (especially landline phones) should give it an advantage to provide cheap and reliable broadband services across cities, towns and villages. We keep repeating that the TRAI still considers a broadband connection to be at a speed of 512kbps (upgraded from 256 kbps initially). It would help (everybody!) if that number was doubled to define broadband as 1mbps in India.