Airtel may Drop Roaming Charges
Move to benefit telco’s 268 m subscribers; Idea, Vodafone may follow suit
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.