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Indian Government to ask operators to stop 3G Roaming Pacts
Department of Telecommunications India is all set to issue notices to telecom operators for stopping 3G roaming services in areas where they do not hold bandwidth with immediate effect. Telecom Secretary R.Chandrasekhar stated that the telecom operators will be given 60 days for providing the reason of breaching the licensing terms. Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular had signed an agreement in July 2011 that allowed customers to avail 3G services in areas where any one of the companies among the three had bandwidth.
In December 2011, Department of Telecom had asked the companies to stop the services stating it to be illegal as per the terms and conditions of 3G Licenses. In response to that, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular approached Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal which eventually stayed the ban.
Chandrasekhar stated that the Government will be issuing separate notices to each of the companies for claiming the revenue being generated through the agreement established between three operators. All the three companies have been given three days for submitting the compliance reports. Reports suggest that majority of the mobile carriers in India have not managed to gain higher returns with their 3G services since a majority of the mobile phone customers still prefer cheaper 2G services.
Taking in to consideration the current rules, the maximum penalty for license violation can be up to Rs.50 Crore per circle. 3G airwaves bid first came in to play in 2010 Auction when Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular won 3G licenses for 13, 9 and 11 circles respectively. But the interesting part was that none of them won permit for operating across all the 22 circles in the country. This forced Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular to enter a joint 3G roaming pact which enabled them to sign up customers even in areas outside their operating zones.