The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has delivered a split-verdict on the 3G intra-circle roaming pacts, reports PTI (via The Economic Times). The report states that the two-member judge bench comprising of the chairman Justice S B Sinha and member P K Rastogi, reached different conclusions on whether these pacts could be allowed or not.
Sinha approved the telecom operators’ appeal against Department of Telecommunication’s (DoT) directive to stop intra-circle 3G roaming stating that DoT had not followed proper process and had not provided appropriate time for telcos to respond with their views. He asked DoT to restart this process and provide enough time for operators to respond to DoT’s directive. On the other side, Rastogi dismissed the appeal stating that operators cannot offer 3G services in the country when they only have 2G licenses. This means that operators would nt be able to offer 3G services in circles where they don’t have 3G spectrum.
Last June, Vodafone had launched 3G services in Andhra Pradesh and Kerala due to an intra-circle 3G arrangement between Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Bharti Airtel and had announced in the following month, that it had signed agreements with Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular to allow operators to offer 3G roaming services in areas where it doesn’t have licenses to operate 3G services.
However, Department of Telecommunication later announced that these arrangements were illegal since the agreements were against the telecom licenses and would lead to loss of revenue to the government. The telecom ministry had also sent notices to telcos ordering them to scrap the 3G intra-circle roaming pact following which Aircel and Tata Docomo had scrapped their agreement for providing 3G services in each other’s circles, while Vodafone, Idea Cellular and Airtel had jointly written a letter to the Prime Minister of India asking them for a refund of the spectrum auction money with interest, in case the ICR roaming arrangements were to be declared illegal.
Operators had also moved to TDSAT the same day, against the directive and had accused the government for impeding the growth of mobile broadband in the country and acting in a non-transparent way. Further, they added that they had received prior explicit written clarifications from DoT before the auction, regarding this matter. TDSAT had later restrained DoT from taking any action against the operators.
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