MWC 2017: GMSA ‘declares war’ on global roaming charges


GSMA claims global roaming charges will soon be a thing of the past

The GSMA has “declared a war” on global mobile roaming, with its chairman vowing that it will soon be a “thing of the past”.

That was the promise made by Sunil Bharti Mittal, who is also founder and chairman of Bharti Enterprise. The company also owns India-based Airtel, which is the third largest telecoms company in the world with 348 million customers across the 18 countries it operates in.

He claimed the telecoms industry is not highly regarded and “cherished” by customers, with operators only deemed important when a call drops or data speed decreases.

Mittal, who received a round of applause midway through his presentation, claimed 55 per cent of people in developed markets switch off their mobile data when they are travelling over fear of being hit with bill shock when they return home.

Immediate action

“The only time our customers remember us is when a call drops or when their data speeds struggle, otherwise the telecoms industry isn’t cherished. We know we need to fix this and one very clear issue is roaming.

“I want to take this opportunity to declare a war on roaming in the 18 countries that we operate in, allowing customers to have the freedom to switch on their mobile phones wherever and whenever they want.

“Today we have a global network and one that works all over the world, and we should be very proud of this. Yet 55 per cent of people in the developed world switch off their mobile data when they are travelling. They go for local SIM cards and WiFi hotspots to look at their emails.

“What have we done to our industry? This must stop. I can promise you within my term at the GSMA, roaming charges and bill shock will be a thing of the past.”

Mittal’s promise came as Bharti Airtel itself announced radical changes to roaming for its hundreds of millions of customers.

From April 1, those roaming within India will enjoy free incoming calls and texts, with no premium on outgoing calls, as well as no additional data charges on national roaming.

Even customers not signed up to this will be protected from bill shock through an automatic adjustment that it claimed is equal to the daily pack for that particular country.

This means that when a customer billing reaches the price of a one day pack for the country, they will be moved to that pack, eliminating the fear of being overcharged.