Telecom Tiger report now confirms that the Delhi High Court has asked the government to refrain from stopping telecom operators from offering 3G services through roaming pacts. Last week, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had directed Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular to stop offering 3G voice and data services outside their licensed zones by making use of roaming pacts.

May be heavily fined..

Relief for Airtel

The report quotes Justice Rajiv Shakdher as saying, “Department of Telecommunication (DoT) will not take any coercive action against the petitioner which will respond to the show-cause notice within 60 days”.

Bharti Airtel, reportedly, filed a petition in the Delhi High Court against the DoT advisory, which asked Airtel to stop intra-circle 3G roaming services within three days. The report by Telecom Tiger reveals that the Delhi HC, in its latest decision, has barred the telecom department from taking any coercive action against Bharti Airtel till the next date of hearing. The Court did not specify when the next hearing would be held.

Interestingly, DoT's representative additional Solicitor General Rajeev Mehra argued that Airtel should be stopped from offering services to new customers. The HC rejected the argument, but added that Airtel has to provide details of new customers, who would be provided 3G services. 

The ruling in Airtel’s favour, according to reports, means that the company can continue to offer 3G services in the seven circles – Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Kolkata, Uttar Pradesh, East Gujarat, Kerala and Haryana – where it does not have 3G spectrum license, but offers 3G services through roaming pacts.

Airtel, Idea and Vodafone have acquired 3G licenses in a few circles in the country, and have signed roaming pacts with each other to let their subscribers use data services across the country. Bharti, Vodafone and Idea currently have licences to operate 3G services in 13, 9 and 11 circles, respectively. They won the bids in the auctions for 3G airwaves in 2010. The administration has not permitted any company to operate 3G services in all the 22 circles of the country.

Apparently, the DoT did not approve of this, and quoting telecom secretary R Chandrasekhar as saying on the sidelines of a Confederation of Indian Industry conference, an earlier report by The Economic Times stated that these companies had been issued show-cause notices and advisory notices to stop such operations. The show-cause notices had been served because the three operators violated Mobile Virtual Network Operators norms. MVNOs, which are not allowed in India, offer telecom services without owning spectrum. The move is an enforcement of the Telecom Department's order in December last year, which directed mobile phone companies to end 3G roaming pacts.

We have asked them to immediately comply with the directive issued last year and have given them 60 days to explain why action should not be taken against them for breach of rules,” The Economic Times cited Chandrasekhar as saying.

Chandrasekhar, as per earlier reports had stated that the government would issue separate notices to the companies to claim the revenue generated through these pacts. The companies have been given three days to submit compliance reports, he added.

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