A tariff war has broken out in the international roaming space as telecom companies (telcos) are looking to lure the rising number of overseas travellers who use calling and local SIM cards slash rates, and offset revenue loss due to government curbs on domestic STD and 3G roaming rates.
On Monday, Vodafone launched two international roaming packs for postpaid and prepaid customers, at rentals of `599 and `1,499, offering customers a fixed tariff plan across 53 countries, as well as flat 95% discount on data charges and 78% discount on voice calls.
Vivek Mathur, chief commercial officer, Vodafone India, said, “The feedback we received is customers are unclear about international roaming rates and are afraid of huge bill shocks. They prefer to use local SIM cards while travelling wherein rates vary drastically among operators.”
The Vodafone plan follows similar moves by other players recently.
Bharti Airtel recently launched a similar one-plan-for-all offer to postpaid customers, under which subscribers could choose from a variety of local, STD, international calls, SMS and data packs across five unique plans.
Earlier this month, Reliance Communications offered discounts of up to 84% on voice calls and 98% on data usage for its postpaid customers travelling to Saudi Arabia.
But will this shore up telco revenues?
Ankita Somani, telecom analyst with Angel Broking, said, “Roaming makes up only 14% of a telco’s total revenue, with 50% of it coming from STD. We also do not expect ISD volumes to also rise significantly, as there are very few takers for international roaming.”
Himanshu Chakrawarty, CEO of The Mobile Store, differs.
“Data usage is maximum during overseas travel, when consumers tend to use local SIM cards or free wi-fi for data. However, the problem occurs when people have to travel to multiple countries, causing a huge tariff flux with local SIM or calling card rates. This is a segment where Indian telcos are now trying to cash in on, with a single tariff plan across multiple countries.”