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Thursday, May 30, 2013

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Will Free Roaming hurt Dual sim phones

Recently all the blogs have been talking about the rise of Dual SIM technology in India and how some phone manufacturers have capitalized on this increasing demand of Indian phone users by making most of their phones supporting dual-SIM functionality.  Dual-SIM phones allow users to pick service providers of their choice and make best use of their offers. One can have a SIM for voice and text usage while another for data usage or even use two separate SIMs from two cities you visit frequently, and not spend much on roaming charges. All this is set to change. 

The opposition
After much pressure and huge delays, the Department of Telecommunications has finally announced that it intends to introduce free roaming for all mobile phone users by October this year. While this is a welcome move for all phone users who end up paying a fair share of their mobile bills as roaming charges, major service providers are opposing this introduction fearing loss of revenues. Introduction of free roaming is meeting strong opposition from telecom majors such as Airtel and Vodafone, who do not wish to lose such a large share of their income to the government’s decision. If enforced, these companies aim to recover revenue losses by increasing base tariff for all costumers, which would be unfair to bulk of the users who rarely using roaming facilities. Instead, both these players recommend the introduction of fixed price vouchers, just like SMS packs, ISD packs, that will allow users to enjoy free roaming for limited period of time. So, consumers who travel often can opt for these packs and enjoy free roaming while outside their home circles, without affecting the regular users in the circle. While this may seem like a win-win situation for telecom companies and users, it does fall flat on the government Telecom Policy. 

The opportunist 
Anil Ambani led Reliance - Reliance Communications though has quite a welcome approach to this government directive. Taking a leaf from similar policies implemented abroad, especially, the US, Reliance Communications believes that availability of free roaming will further boost telephone calls between roaming users and their home circles. This will increase average expenditure per user, which could make up for the losses companies might face if roaming charges are abolished. 

The present situation
Whether, these policies will affect dual SIM technology, depends largely on the number of users who use SIM cards from different circles on their dual-SIM compatible phones.  Dual SIM phones are also gaining popularity since they allow users to get maximum benefit out of a company’s offer for text messages and/ or data packs. As long as users stick such usage, Dual SIM technology is here to stay. Also, there are many users who opt to keep their business and personal life separate at all times. A few years ago, these were the people you would see carrying two-three phones at a time. With dual-SIM phones, it is now a rare sight to find someone carrying multiple phones. Such users take advantage of dual-SIM functionality to keep their personal and business life separate. You could be on vacation and still be reachable for important clients or choose to respond only to emergency situations, all thanks to your Dual SIM phone. 

Also, certain far-off areas such as agricultural fields, industrial areas do not have the privilege of multiple service providers. Hardly one or two service carriers connect these far off areas. People usually traveling to such areas regularly while residing elsewhere in the town or city tend to use dual-SIM phones to stay connected at all times. This is another set of users that will still continue to use Dual SIM Phones. 

The real dilemma 
As October approaches, the story of free roaming will slowly unfold. Whether the Government bows down to pressure from the service providers or stays committed to its announcement will only be known when October arrives. The introduction of Free Roaming will also bring about a much need unification of network circles. Whether it will kill Dual SIM technology or not, only time will tell, but unification of network circles and availability of mobile-number portability (MNP –meaning, the mobile number you are currently using might be the only one you will ever need) are a much welcome change. Again only time will tell whether or not these changes are here to stay.  It remains to see how Dual sim technology breaks into the Top 5 Trends in mobile industry.


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