National roaming in India makes things a bit confusing for the consumer. In what telecom circle is the person you want to call, what are the long-distance rates for each telecom circle, and what are the roaming rates if you are in a different state. Many countries do not have national roaming, so what makes India special? I wanted to find out. \n\n\n\nWhy does India have national roaming? India has national roaming with the intention to keep phone charges low by only charging those who want to make long-distance calls or use their phones while in another state. As a result, overall phone-usage prices can be kept low.\n\n\n\nAlso, operators can keep costs low by not being required to have telecom infrastructure all over the country while offering nation-wide service, which translates to lower prices for the consumer. But there is more to it. \n\n\n\nNo idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read - promised!\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\nWhat is national roaming and how does national work in India?\n\n\n\nNational roaming is when a user can move from one mobile operator to another within the same country without requiring the roamer to be a customer of the providing network. \n\n\n\nFor example, Airtel customers could be roaming on the Idea network where Airtel has no coverage or Jio customers on Airtel's network - only if the providers have national roaming agreements. \n\n\n\nA national roaming agreement is when operators want and allow their customers to use each other\u2019s to provide service in areas where they have no or inadequate coverage. \n\n\n\nThis is done to provide greater service to the customer who does not have to deal with large areas where they cannot get any signals. \n\n\n\nNational roaming agreements allow operators to provide coverage across a country without having to spend money to build their own infrastructure. \n\n\n\nIndia is divided into 23 telecom circles, which are telecom service areas.\n\n\n\nLet\u2019s say provider A has coverage across the country, except\nfor in telecom circle 1. Operator B does cover telecom circle 1 but has no infrastructure in circle 5, both operators can set up a roaming\nagreement so that their customers can use their phones in circles 1 and 5, which would not have been\npossible without this agreement.\n\n\n\nNational roaming agreements are useful and beneficial to the\nconsumer and the operator. For the consumer, they can use their phones in areas\nthat would be considered black-out zones, while operators can claim that they\nprovide nation-wide coverage.\n\n\n\nHowever, this comes at\na cost. Telecom providers charge each other wholesale roaming charges (per\nminute, text, or data in KB, MB, or GB) to use each other\u2019s networks. \n\n\n\nOperators can charge each other whatever they want because\nthere are often no frameworks for how much they can charge each other. As a result, national roaming can be expensive. \n\n\n\nIn addition to these arbitrary rates, which gets passed onto the customer, operators often add a mark-up to the consumer, meaning that the customer could get charges twice: the wholesale roaming rates and the provider mark-up\n\n\n\nWhat are Indian telecom circles (telecom service areas)?\n\n\n\nA telecom circle, or officially telecom service area, typically refers to a state or zone where a call is treated as a local call. When the call is destined to reach another zone than where the caller is, the call will be treated as a long-distance call. The same counts for using your phone in another zone than your base circle. \n\n\n\nThe Department of Telecommunications has divided India into 23 telecom circles, which can be referred to service areas or zones. The borders of the circles roughly correspond to the borders of the states, but there some exceptions. \n\n\n\nA few of the smaller states are grouped together with bigger neighboring states, or smaller states get grouped together and become one big state (in regards to telecom circles). \n\n\n\nEach telecom circle is categorized into four categories based on subscriber base and revenue potential: Metro, A, B, or C. Areas with the Metro label have the highest revenue potential, while C states and regions have the lowest, based on the population of the area. \n\n\n\nWhat are the telecom circles in India?\n\n\n\nIn the tables below, you can find all the official telecom circle names, their codes, categories, and the geographical areas covered set by the India Department of Telecommunications - grouped by their labels.\n\n\n\nNote that operators can, however, decide to not conform with this usage, and may deviate from it slightly. \n\n\n\nIndia Telecom Circles - Metro Category\n\n\n\nCircleCodeArea(s) coveredDelhiDLDelhi, Faridabad, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon, and NoidaKolkataKOKolkata* MumbaiMUMumbai, Navi Mumbai, and Kalyan\n\n\n\n* Includes parts of Howrah, Hooghly, North and South 24 Parganas, and Nadia Districts\n\n\n\nIndia Telecom Circles - Category A\n\n\n\nCircleCodeArea(s) coveredAndhra\n Pradesh & TelanganaAPState of Andhra Pradesh, State of Telangana, and Yanam districtGujaratGJState of Gujarat, Daman and Diu, Dadra, and Nagar HaveliKarnatakaKAState of KarnatakaMaharashtra\n & GoaMHState of Maharashtra*, and State of GoaTamil Nadu 1TNState of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry district, and Karaikal district\n\n\n\n* Excludes Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, and Kalyan1 Chennai Metro used to be its separate telecom circle until 2007 when it got merged into the Tamil Nady circle. Although not a circle anymore, you may hear people referring to Chennai as Chennai Metro. Just remember that it is part of Tamil Nadu.\n\n\n\nIndia Telecom Circles - Category B\n\n\n\nCircleCodeArea(s) coveredHaryanaHRState of Haryana* Kerala\n & LakshadweepKLState of Kerala, Lakshadweep, and Mah\u00e9 districtMadhya\n Pradesh & ChhattisgarhMPState of Madhya Pradesh, and the State of ChhattisgarhPunjabPBState of Punjab, Chandigarh, and PanchkulaRajasthanRJState of RajasthanUP (East)UEEastern Uttar Pradesh\n\n\n\n* Excludes Faridabad, Gurgaon, and Panchkula\n\n\n\nIndia Telecom Circles - Category C\n\n\n\nCircleCodeArea(s) coveredAssamASState of AssamBihar\n & JharkhandBRState of Bihar and State of JharkhandHimachal\n PradeshHPState of Himachal PradeshJammu\n and KashmirJKState of Jammu and KashmirNorth\n EastNEState of Arunachal Pradesh, State of Meghalaya, State of Mizoram, State\n of Nagaland, State of Manipur and State of TripuraOdishaORState of OdishaWest\n BengalWBState of West Bengal*, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the State of SikkimGhaziabad\n & NoidaGBGhazibad & Noida Regions\n\n\n\n* Excludes Kolkata\n\n\n\nThe future of national roaming in India\n\n\n\nAlthough India is a big country, national roaming can be considered to be old-fashioned. Customers in countries bigger than India such as China, Russia, Canada, and the United States do not have to worry about roaming rates within their countries - most operators offer free long-distance calls and texts as well nowadays. \n\n\n\nIn addition, most of the regional operators have been bought up or merged with bigger operators like Airtel, BSNL, MTNL, Reliance Jio, and Vodafone-Idea, meaning that there is no real need for national roaming.\n\n\n\nOn Reliance Jio's 42nd annual general meeting for its shareholders, Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Industries Chief and Chairman, announced that the company planned to offer free voice calls with no roaming charges to its customers. \n\n\n\nCustomers should pay for only one service, voice or data not both. Worldwide operators charge only for data, and voice and messages are free. All voice calls for Jio customer will be absolutely free. The era of paying for voice calls is ending. Mukesh Ambani, Reliance Industries Chief and Chairman, 1st of September, 2016\n\n\n\nOn the same day, Jio announced its plan to disrupt the international roaming market with its international roaming packages, which I have analyzed thoroughly.\n\n\n\nA few months later, Airtel announced that it would provide free national roaming for all its customers starting from April 2017. \n\n\n\nThis meant that Airtel customers could finally enjoy free incoming calls & SMS, and no premium would be charged on outgoing calls. Now, Airtel customers can use their phones freely wherever they are in the country, which Airtel marked as the death of national roaming in their press release. \n\n\n\nThis marks the death of national roaming and the whole country will now be like a local network for our customers, who will not have to think twice before making or receiving calls or using data while traveling outside their home base. Gopal Vittal, MD & CEO (India & South Asia), Bharti Airtel, February 27, 2017\n\n\n\nI believe that the remaining operators will soon follow Airtel and Jio steps to stay competitive. We are three years later after Jio made its roaming announcement and Idea still does not offer free national roaming. \n\n\n\nRegardless, I believe that Airtel's death to national roaming statement will become a reality - sooner or later. \n\n\n\nNext Steps to Enhance Your Travel Experiences\n\n\n\nLooking for the next steps to enhance your phone travel experiences? Here is what to do: \n\n\n\nCheck Out My Resource Page\n\n\n\nLooking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money with international SIM cards, on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. 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