Airtel Charges Re. 1 For Incoming SMS on Roaming! TRAI Order Violation?


I am sure many mobile subscribers are quite happy that Airtel (and subsequently other providers) are making incoming voice calls on roaming free or at much reduced fixed rates.

[box type=”shadow” ]But here is the thing that most of the consumers (including me) did not know – Though the incoming calls on roaming are free, the consumers will be charged Rs. 1 per incoming SMS (yes, incoming not outgoing) when on roaming.[/box]

Check out the Tariff card put up by Airtel on their website for pre-paid roaming:

Airtel incoming SMS Charges

You can clearly see in the snapshot above that while the standard rates for prepaid subscribers on roaming is mentioned at Rs. 1 per SMS.

This is a big thing that prepaid consumers should understand otherwise their pre-paid balances will run out very fast. Think about the SMSes that you get on daily basis. From your banking institution, from the services you have subscribed to, from your social media platforms (if you have sms updates on) and to top it from marketing companies and spammers. I am not even talking about genuine SMSes that come from your family and friends.

So, when you are on roaming, every incoming SMS will cost you a rupee each. Infact, making a call may turn out much cheaper than receiving an SMS.

In short, though your incoming calls on roaming may be free, in reality you will end up paying much more on SMS than what you did earlier.

The second important thing that comes to my mind is whether or not “charging for incoming SMSes” is in violation of TRAI order.

Here is the cap set by TRAI as per June 17 order: Outgoing SMS (local) at Re 1 per SMS and outgoing SMS (STD) at Rs 1.50 per SMS. Incoming SMS will remain free of charge.

please bear in mind that this is just a cap, operators are free to charge at rates below the given cap. And, if the cap on incoming SMS is free, then obviously Airtel or any other provider must keep it free. Charging for SMS means a direct violation of the order.

To cross check we also checked out tariff page for Tata Docomo, they are not charging for incoming SMS on roaming and I guess that’s the case with other operators as well.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this!

[Hat Tip: Kris Swaminathan]

  1. Vipul says

    Can’t we complain TRAI about it.

  2. Vishal Harai says

    Either this is some mis-reporting on Airtel portal, mis-understanding by the readers, or mis-management by Airtel business planners.

    When on roaming, I have a choice whether to receive a call or not. But I do not have any control over incoming SMS’.

    If implemented, this plan is seriously bad!

  3. ashok pai says

    the customers seem to be happy paying up, instead of protesting!

  4. Navjot Singh says

    They have hidden the information now. – It all looks hideous now. Unclear whether they will charge or not. In a way they can charge and users will never know. Clever.

  5. Syed Mohammed Tauseef says

    This is a very bad move by Airtel… All other operators are providing free incoming sms on roaming even without a tariff plan… I hope TRAI looks into the matter and takes action immediately… Nevertheless, Airtel has tremendous network and definitely an apt choice when it comes to roaming

  6. Ankur Gupta says

    That’s not for Prepaid subscribers… Though the page is titled ‘Prepaid Roaming’, there are two sections on the page, one for Prepaid plans and the other for Postpaid Plans. The tariff chart listed is for the postpaid plans… Postpaid customers form a minor part of the telecom subscribers.. .It is, however, still a violatiopn of the TRAI order..

  7. Pankaj Gupta says

    hehe.. looks like they want to earn as much in next few days by introducing such charges :P

  8. Anand says

    This is really shocking. Incoming SMS is one of the thing which users can’t control in anyway. We should bring this info in public notice.

    Of course, this is ridiculous. btw thanks for sharing this post.

  9. Karun Sandha says


    I have been keen watcher of Bharti Airtel for the last 3 years (as I had invested money in its shares).
    For some there has been dip in service quality of Airtel namely:

    1. One cannot log in a complaint with customer care executive, one has to log in to net/visit nearewst service center.
    2. Most of the services are priced above the avg market price offered.
    3. Airtel has entered in business of fooling its customers like activation of many free services which become chargeable, auto renewal of most of the services

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