The draft National Telecom Policy-2011, to be unveiled by Communications Minister Kapil Sibal on Monday, is likely to bring more cheer to over 85-crore mobile users. If DoT insiders are to be believed, mobile users will not have to pay roaming charges while travelling outside their telecom circle.

Today, a mobile user (leaving his telecom circle and travelling to other States) pays Re.1 a minute each on all incoming calls and outgoing local calls in the circle he is travelling in, while he is charged Rs.1.50 for outgoing STD calls. But with the draft NTP-2011 likely to do away with the national roaming charges, the user will be able to bring down his monthly bill. The idea is to help people talk more while roaming, which would also help mobile operators who are under pressure to earn more revenues, say officials of the Department of Telecommunications.

Another important aspect of NTP-2011 could be strengthening of the grievance redress mechanism for telephone users by giving the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India more powers.

According to informed sources, a separate cell is likely to be created under the TRAI where subscribers could file complaints if they are not satisfied with the response of customer care cells of their operators. The TRAI would be given powers to penalise operators guilty of not redressing subscriber complaints.

Future path

NTP-2011 is keenly awaited also by the telecom industry as it will decide the future path of the sector, which has been mired in controversy, particularly after the grant of new licences in 2008. Apart from relaxing norms for mergers and acquisitions to allow consolidation of the sector that today accommodates 15 players, the new policy is likely to focus on spectrum allocation and pricing.

Exit policy

NTP-2011 will also chalk out an exit policy for operators who want to surrender their licences, thereby giving needy operators access to spectrum and helping the exchequer earn more revenues. It would give an impetus to telecom manufacturing, now dominated by Chinese players, besides addressing the security issue as India faces the challenges of terrorism and cyber crime.

A sea change

While the last policy was announced in 1999 under the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance regime, the telecom sector has undergone a sea change in the last seven years, particularly after incoming calls were made free as India emerged the fastest growing mobile market.

But the new policy was necessitated by the 2G spectrum scam, which caused a loss to the exchequer, put at between Rs.35,000 crore and Rs.1.76-lakh crore.