Air­tel may Drop Roam­ing Charges

Move to ben­e­fit telco’s 268 m sub­scribers; Idea, Voda­fone may fol­low suit

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Anan­dita.Manko­tia @times­group.com

New Delhi: Bharti Air­tel is set to abol­ish do­mes­tic roam­ing charges on its net­work for both voice and data ser­vices, a per­son fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said, match­ing a key of­fer by ri­val Reliance Jio In­fo­comm, the en­try of which has trig­gered a price war in In­dia.

“The com­pany is all set to of­fer free in­com­ing calls/ SMSes on na­tional roam­ing and there will be no pre­mium on out­go­ing calls,” the per­son told ET, adding that there will be no ad­di­tional data charges on na­tional roam­ing.

The com­pany is also plan­ning to sim­plify ac­ti­va­tion and billing for con­sumers who travel over­seas in a bid to en­cour­age sub­scribers to use its in­ter­na­tional roam­ing packs. Bharti, In­dia’s big­gest phone com­pany, de­clined to com­ment.

The move will ben­e­fit Bharti’s 268 mil­lion mo­bile cus­tomers, with high-end bun­dled plans that of­fer free call­ing cur­rently lim­ited to a small seg­ment of sub­scribers. Be­sides, the move is likely to force ri­val Voda­fone In­dia and Idea Cel­lu­lar, the coun­try’s No. 2 and 3 tel­cos, to fol­low suit in a bid to pro­tect their sub­scriber base, al­ready under threat from Jio’s free voice and data of­fers, which in­cludes free roam­ing.

Last Oc­to­ber, Voda­fone made in­com­ing calls to its net­work free while on roam­ing. How­ever, roam­ing charges on out­go­ing calls or on data us­age con­tinue to ap­ply to its cus­tomers.

The move could dent Bharti’s rev­enue as well—roam­ing ac­counts for a 3-4.5% share. But in­cum­bents don’t have too many op­tions to ring fence their cus­tomer base from Jio.

“My un­cle Bra­jesh had to rise to de­fend him­self af­ter his fa­ther was shot dead when he was in col­lege and was top­ping aca­demic charts. Unhe jawab to dena hi tha, to diya (he had to give a re­ply, so he gave one),” said his nephew. “If you say to give a re­ply is wrong, then you can call him a bahubali (strong­man).”

Bra­jesh Singh is per­haps the on- ly don who ri­vals An­sari’s ex­ploits. While con­test­ing the as­sem­bly seat in 2012, he had de­clared 39 cases against him­self, in­clud­ing many of mur­der. But he also said that he had been dis­charged by the courts in nine of them. He’s of­ten said to be the first gang­ster of Pur­van­chal to use AK-47s, but his nephew casts him in the mould of a do-gooder. “There are only mur­der cases against him out of family ri­valry, not of ex­tor­tion or kid­nap­ping as An­sari. My un­cle is now very much a social ac­tivist,” he told ET.

As a counter to An­sari, the BJP could gain from Bra­jesh Singh’s in­flu­ence in the Varanasi, Chan­dauli and Ghazipur ar­eas as ex­plained by his big win as MLC from Varanasi last year from be­hind bars.

In Jaun­pur’s Miryahu, Sa­ma­jwadi Party’s sit­ting MLA Shrad­dha Ya­dav first bat­tled Ba­jrangi to defeat him in 2012 and is now up against his wife. Ya­dav de­clared: “De­vel­op­ment of Akhilesh Ya­dav will win and the bahubali clan will lose.”

The three dons have an in­ter­twined his­tory. In 2001, An­sari sur­vived a shootout in Ghazipur sup­pos­edly en­gi­neered by Bra­jesh Singh and the lat­ter sub­se­quently fled UP.

In 2005, Ba­jrangi, al­legedly on An­sari’s in­struc­tions, shot BJP MLA and gang­ster-turned-politi­cian Kr­ish­nanand Rai, with whom Bra­jesh was closely as­so­ci­ated.

“My un­cle is part of my family,” Sushil Singh had said re­cently, rais­ing eye­brows over BJP’s im­plicit sup­port for Bra­jesh. BJP hadn’t fielded a can­di­date against Bra­jesh Singh when he won as MLC from Varanasi last year. “My un­cle or I do not seek votes n based on re­li­gion like Mukhtar An­sari, who joined the BSP only to win Mus­lim votes for that party,” he said.

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