What Airtel’s international roaming plans mean for travellers

You may not need to buy a local SIM card in another country to save on the costs while using your phone there for calls and data usage


Called SmartPacks for International Roaming, these packages are available for five regions right now—the US, the UK, Singapore, Thailand and the UAE. Photo: AFP
Called SmartPacks for International Roaming, these packages are available for five regions right now—the US, the UK, Singapore, Thailand and the UAE. Photo: AFP

New Delhi: Telecom service provider Bharti Airtel has announced new international roaming packs for post-paid users. Called SmartPacks for International Roaming, these packages are available for five regions right now—the US, the UK, Singapore, Thailand and the UAE.

Let us take a look at what these packages offer, in comparison to the standard international roaming packs that are generally considered very expensive to use in the long run, both for calls as well as 2G/3G/4G mobile data usage.

Each pack is unique

The US pack costs Rs.4,999 and will remain active for 30 days. It includes unlimited free incoming calls, and bundles 399 minutes of calling back to India at no extra cost. While on roaming in the US, calls to another local US number costs Rs.10 per minute, outgoing calls to countries other than India cost Rs.39 per minute and Rs.10 per SMS. The biggest benefit is perhaps the data bundle—the pack includes 3GB of data usage at no extra cost.

The UK pack costs Rs.4,499 for 30 days, and includes unlimited incoming calls, 399 minutes of calls to India and 3GB data usage.

The UAE pack costs Rs.3,999 for 30 days, and includes 100 minutes of incoming calls, after which users will be charged at Rs.10 per minute. The 3GB data bundle and 399 minutes of calls to India remain the same as the US and UK packs.

The Singapore pack costs Rs.2,499 for 30 days, and bundles unlimited incoming calls, 299 minutes of calls to India and 3GB of data usage.

The Thailand pack also costs Rs.2,499 for 30 days and includes 1GB bundled data usage. The unlimited incoming calls bundle as well as 299 free calls to India are also part of the package.

In any of these plans, if you exhaust the free calling to India bundle, the cost of outgoing calls is Rs.10 per min to India. And once you finish the included data, it costs Rs.10 per MB. Calls to other local numbers within any of these five countries will cost Rs.10 per minute and Rs.39 per minute for outgoing calls to international numbers.

Fine differences

It is easy to miss out on the fine changes across these packs. For example, the Singapore and Thailand packs bundle 299 minutes of calls to India, while the US, UK and UAE packs offer 399 minutes. Unlimited incoming calls at no cost are available in all except one of the packs—the UAE pack offers just 100 minutes of benefit. And the Thailand pack offers the least amount of data, 1GB, compared to 3GB on all other country packs.

Interestingly, though, you need to subscribe to the basic International Roaming activation pack of Rs.149 for 30 days, and only then can activate any of the SmartPacks.

Cost and convenience benefit

A lot of travellers tend to buy SIM cards once they land in a different country, simply because international roaming is otherwise genuinely expensive. Calls usually cost around Rs.25 per minute for outgoing as well as incoming, beyond any free usage that might be bundled—but that usually isn’t a lot. The new Airtel SmartPacks for International Roaming does solve that problem. In addition, and we feel this is the biggest benefit, is the bundled data usage. International roaming packs, depending on country, charge anywhere upwards of Rs.5 per MB—even if you use just 100MB for checking mails, quick web browsing or social networking, which itself comes to at least Rs.500.