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The rift between DoT and Indian mobile operators around offering 3G services through roaming agreements in circles other than their licensed ones have been going on for some time.
Now DoT has gone ahead and directed Vodafone and Idea to immediately stop offering 3G services through roaming agreements. In addition to this, DoT has also inflicted heavy penalty to the operators for violating the license norms. As per the sources, DoT issued this notice to the operators yesterday.
It was reported some time back that Tata Teleservices and Aircel had too a similar roaming agreement in place to offer 3G services. However, they revoked the agreement once DoT initiated probe in to such 3G roaming agreements, which they found to be against the 3G licensing norms. DoT is of the view that operators can offer only 3G services in circles where they have got the license to operate.
It may be recalled that Airtel, Idea and Vodafone won 3G licenses in 13, 11 and 9 circles, respectively. Most of the operators were offering 3G services to their subscribers in other non-licensed circles too by forming roaming agreements with other operators.
Sources confirm that penalty for operators could run to Rs 450 to 500 Crores. This would force operators to challenge the decision of DoT in courts. DoT while issuing the directive to the operators has given them 60 days to respond to this 3G service notice.
This time DoT seems to be acting tough as they even added that operators run a potential risk of losing their 3G license if their responses are not found satisfactory. However, only few months back a similar notice by DoT to Airtel was given stay by the Delhi High Court. This would give some relief to operators, but it has not stopped DoT to issue similar notices to other operators now.
There seems to be too much confusion in the air regarding the legal validity of these intra circle roaming agreements between the operators. We may need to wait for days to get clarity on this with this issue likely to get sorted out in the court.