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Death of national roaming, fewer rivals reshape India

The Jio effect has had far-reaching effects. In case you’ve been on Mars, Reliance Jio, the startup Indian operator, launched its 4G free usage package in September and signed up 50 million subscribers in a record-breaking 83 days.

Now in a bid to demonstrate just how innovative and customer-friendly it can be, India’s biggest mobile service provider, Bharti Airtel is to remove all roaming charges for outgoing and incoming calls, texts and data usage within India – resulting in what the company’s publicity says is the “death of National Roaming” from April 1.

Airtel also said international call rates will be cut by up to 90 percent to as low as Rs 3 per minute and data charges by up to 99 per cent to Rs 3 per megabyte across popular roaming destinations. Sunil Mittal, Chairman of India’s largest mobile services provider, Bharti Airtel, claimed, “We are changing the international roaming paradigm, which will allow our customers to take their number to every corner of the world.”

He added a call to action: “As an industry, operators across the world must collaborate to remove the cost barriers to roaming and offer customers the convenience of staying connected without the fear of exorbitant bill charges.”

The timing is perfect – the world’s attention is on the global mobile industry because of the annual mega-fest that is Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Even more importantly, Jio is about to end its period of offering free services and introduce Jio Prime from March 31, offering similar services at prices that undercut the rest of the market substantially. For an annual fee of 99Rs ($1.48) plus a monthly charge of Rs 303 ($4.55) , Jio Prime subscribers will get 1Gb daily.

Consolidation comes to India

The intense competition in the Indian market, ignited by Jio, is also forcing what many would argue is overdue consolidation. Last week Airtel announced it is to acquire Telenor India and a merger of Vodafone and Idea is looking likely, which would create one of the largest telecom companies in India in terms of revenue and subscribers, according to an article in CNBC’s moneycontrol.

It goes on to cite former Vodafone’s former [global]CEO, Arun Sarin, predicting that soon around 90 precent of the Indian market will be dominated by just three players in search of the scale and reach they need to price aggressively – Vodafone, Airtel and Jio. At the moment, there are 13.

He also said that Jio “has the right vision for what mobile companies should be in the coming years”, with voice and text becoming components of data bundles.



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About The Author

Snr Director, Research & Media

Annie Turner has been researching and writing about the communications industry since the 1980s, editing magazines dedicated to the subject including titles published by Thomson International and The Economist Group. She has contributed articles to many publications, including national and international newspapers such as the Financial Times and International Herald Tribune, and a multitude of business-to-business titles. She joined the TM Forum in 2010 and is responsible for overseeing the content of the Research and Publications portfolio.

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