Indian mobile operator, Bharti Airtel yesterday announced it has launched a new SIM card for its international travelers claiming savings of up to 85 per cent on international calls in 190 countries!

The process to achieve these saving is rather interesting. A Bharti Airtel subscriber registers for a World SIM before leaving India. The SIM is prepaid but allows online top-ups if prior e-payment arrangements have been been made. Just prior to departure a set SMS is sent which automatically diverts all calls to the subscribers usual Indian number to the new World SIM which is then swapped into the subscribers handset.

When arriving at the country of destination the World SIM is active and receives calls at a substantially lower rate than normal roaming and allows calls out at savings of up to 85 percent.

Announcing the launch of the service, Mr. Shireesh Joshi, Director-Marketing, Mobile Services, Bharti Airtel said, “The Airtel World SIM has been created following in-depth research and customer feedback. Over 10 million Indians travel abroad annually and they are looking for a calling product that provides them flexibility and convenience at competitive prices.”

You’ve got to love Bharti’s advertising material:

•   Get the comfort and security of being connected 24×7 from the time you land
•   Spend time vacationing & not SIM hunting when you are abroad
•   No pain of informing your new international number to friends and family back home
•   No need to change your SIM for every country you visit

I hear that! Of course, any new service of this type raises questions about how Bharti’s roaming partners will take the news and, worse still, what it will do to roaming revenues for other SingTel Group and alliance members. I still haven’t worked out how the outgoing calls from visited countries are handled but it’s apparent they are certainly avoiding premium international call rates from within that country.

It seems a bold move for any mobile operator, let alone one as huge as Bharti Airtel, but when you consider its customers enjoy some of the lowest call rates in the world when at home, paying extortionate roaming rates when abroad would be a turn-off.  And with 10 million traveling Indians as potential customers Bharti may be on to a real winner.