Companies & Sectors
Mobile phone shock: Pay extra for roaming to use data service

Phone companies deduct heavy roaming charges for data services, even within the recently unified circles, and without any prior information or intimation, in an apparent violation of a recent DoT order

As telecom firms gear up to rollout 3G advanced services that would facilitate faster Internet browsing and premium services like video calling, it will be very interesting to see how these players price their services in a fast-growing but extremely sensitive Indian market.

For, today, the list of complaints about indirect charges being squeezed out of subscribers just gets longer. Whether it is a useless ringtone you never requested, but are being charged for, or some other similarly worthless, unwanted service. Companies seem to be constantly working out ways to generate more money.

One service that is bringing in more revenues is the Internet, and mobile phone operators are finding that Internet use is increasing. Up to now, one believed that the charges displayed for data services by the operators was what they billed customers. But last month, this writer discovered a hitherto unexplained payment being deducted on data usage for roaming while on a trip out of Mumbai. Very few operators (perhaps only the government operators) mention such roaming charges and certainly none has such charges in merged circles.

Through an order of the Department of Telecom (DoT) recently, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata circles were merged with their respective states. Mobile service providers were directed to treat the metros merged with the states as one circle of operation. So Kolkata along with West Bengal is one circle and even eastern and western Uttar Pradesh is now a unified circle.

But it appears that while service providers have implemented the order with regard to call rates (charges for incoming calls within a circle have been discontinued), they have not done so for data charges. When this writer travelled from Mumbai to another city in Maharashtra (but still in the Mumbai Circle) in the past 10 days, Idea Cellular deducted Rs75 from the prepaid account without any intimation even though the entire Maharashtra and Mumbai is now a unified circle. Unlimited GPRS data service is available in the Mumbai Circle for Rs98 only monthly.

It seems that this is not just a local issue. Last year, the European Union (EU) put a cap on roaming charges for voice calls and SMS, but did not touch data charges. However, news reports have quoted Paul Rubig, member of the European Parliament from Austria, as saying that lawmakers would consider imposing new retail price caps on data roaming charges. Austria was one of the sponsors of the regulations on roaming charges.

But again, these rules are applicable only to subscribers in EU countries. Indians visiting those countries would have to pay the rates prescribed by their service provider. That's also probably why Indians get pretty steep phone bills, and there's no one who can stand up to these companies. Here's a clue of what these charges are like. Tata DoCoMo charges Rs5.50 per 10 kilobytes (KB) for international roaming. To access (site load about 400KB) on your mobile, you would be charged Rs220-even if you did not actually click on the website!

According to information available, a customer of Bharti Airtel in Karnataka was asked to pay a hefty roaming charge for simply keeping the data service on while on a visit to Japan. The Bharti subscriber said in a post on, "I travelled on 19 December 2009 and reached Japan on 20 December 2009, when I received an SMS alert about an outstanding amount of Rs25,000. The next day I received another alert stating that my outstanding was Rs36,000, and I had not used the data service even for a minute!" I returned to India on 23 December 2009.

This problem is particularly severe for those working in Mumbai and residing some distance away from the city. They are billed roaming charges on data services even when they are in the same Mumbai-Maharashtra unified circle. In fact, while incoming voice calls are free in these circles, the outgoing call charges vary and are quite heavy as compared to costs on the home network. On data, some service providers charge 1 paise per 10KB on the home network, but 10 times this at 10 paise per 10KB for roaming.

Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL) might be an exception. Here is what MTNL says on the matter: "Subscribers can avail same data tariff charges while roaming in BSNL Maharashtra as on the MTNL Mumbai network, for all plans, and without any extra roaming charge for data."

One hopes that the launch of mobile number portability will force phone operators to be more attentive to the issues of subscribers and get rid of such absurdities.


France to invest Euro 10 billion in India by 2012

New Delhi: French companies are committed to invest Euro 10 billion ($13.37 billion) in India by 2012, reports PTI quoting the country's minister of economy and finance Christine Lagarde.
“This is not just a figure (Euro 10 billion). It is the commitment by French companies between 2008 and 2012,” Ms Lagarde said while addressing India-France Business Forum organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci).
Adding that everything (business) worked on ‘give and take’ principle, she said, India has to reciprocate to its (France's) interests in the country.
She emphasised on opening up sectors like insurance and retail, particularly, multi-brand retail, so that French companies can invest in these sectors.
Ms Lagarde is accompanying the French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who is on a four-day visit to India.
Mr Sarkozy is leading a team of ministers and a high-level business delegation to strengthen bilateral ties in key areas.
Responding to the concern expressed by French minister, Indian Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia said removing foreign direct investment (FDI) cap on insurance and multi-brand retail was very much on the government agenda.
The government is in the process of amending the insurance legislation to pave the way for allowing 49% FDI in the sector, Mr Ahluwalia said.
For opening up FDI in retail, particularly the multi-brand retail, several ministries have supported the idea, but the decision has to be taken by the government, he said.


Personal finance Monday

Hyundai to hike prices by up to 2% from Jan; Syndicate Bank hikes deposit rate to 8.5%; Motilal Oswal MF files offer document with SEBI to launch MOSt Shares Midcap ETF; Edelweiss MF revises fund name

Hyundai to hike prices by up to 2% from Jan

Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL) said it will increase the prices of vehicles across models by up to 2% to offset rising input costs.
“We have been absorbing increase in input costs but now we have decided to pass it marginally to customers. From January onwards, there will be an increase in prices of vehicles by 1.5%-2%,” HMIL director sales and marketing Arvind Saxena.
HMIL sells hatchbacks such as Santro, i10 and i20 and sedans Accent, Verna Transform and Sonata Transform along with sports utility vehicle Santa Fe. The price of these vehicles ranges between Rs2.75 lakh and Rs22.95 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi).

Syndicate Bank hikes deposit rate to 8.5%

Syndicate Bank has raised its interest rate on term deposit above Rs1 crore, with maturity period between 3-5 years, by 75 basis points to 8.5%.
However, the interest rate on other maturity slabs is unchanged.
Other lenders like Punjab National Bank, Allahabad Bank, State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur have also raised their deposit rates on select maturities to attract more resources.

Motilal Oswal MF files offer document with SEBI to launch MOSt Shares Midcap ETF

Motilal Oswal Mutual Fund has filed an offer document with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to launch Motilal Oswal MOSt Shares Midcap ETF, an open-ended index exchange traded fund.
The investment objective of the scheme is to generate return that corresponds generally to the performance of the CNX Midcap Index (underlying index), subject to tracking error. The scheme would invest 95%-100% in securities constituting CNX Midcap Index. It would also invest up to 5% in debt and money market instruments and cash at call.
The scheme offers only growth option. The exit load would be nil. The minimum investment amount is Rs10,000. The minimum target amount is Rs1 crore.
CNX Midcap Index would be the benchmark index. The scheme shall be managed by Rajnish Rastogi.

Edelweiss MF revises fund name

Edelweiss Mutual Fund has revised its scheme name—Edelweiss Short Term Bond Fund. The new name of the scheme is Edelweiss Ultra Short Term Bond Fund. All the other features of the scheme including nature, objective, asset allocation pattern and fundamental attributes shall remain unchanged. The scheme is managed by Kapil Punjabi and is benchmarked against CRISIL Liquid Fund Index.


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