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Kneejerk response on roaming reforms

We were dragged into work on roaming by the SATRC. Our focus was on intra-SAARC call charges, but the then Chairman of SATRC, Mr Nripendra Mishra of TRAI wanted to act on both. So we started. We were more interested in intra-SAARC call charges because it affects more people, and more at the BOP.

But looking at roaming prices, one cannot but be outraged. An Afghan roamer in Sri Lanka will pay 113 times the cost of a local call paid by a Sri Lankan (or by a roamer who decided to get herself a local SIM). How on earth can this kind of thing be defended? As I said in a post long ago roaming is the mutual gouging of each other’s customers.

Only thing uglier than the practice is its defense by operators. Who cares? Only the rich use the service, they say. That is what they used to say re international call charges. We reformed them, prices came down, volumes went up. Everyone is happy, including operators. Same thing will happen when roaming comes down to earth.

Another thing these people say is “get a local SIM.” There goes the use of data services while on the road. There go the security safeguards about who owns SIMs. There goes respect for the time of people who travel.

Instead of taking this futile path, I wish the operators will simply come up with a solution that addresses the outrageous aspects of current roaming service provision. The alternative is heavy-handed regulation. Ministers and officials travel. They experience the mutual gouging. They will act. The only way to avoid it is to do something reasonable now.

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