The Supreme Court of India has issued notice to Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone India Ltd, Idea Cellular Ltd and Tata Teleservices Ltd over Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal’s (TDSAT) judgement that allowed Airtel, Idea and Vodafone to offer 3G services under a roaming arrangement in areas where not all of them own 3G spectrum. This notice was issued in an appeal by the department of telecommunication (DoT) challenging an April order of TDSAT.
A bench of Justices J. Chelameswar and S.A. Bobde said that it would consider the DoT’s application seeking stay of the TDSAT order which has allowed the companies to restart intra-circle roaming services. In April this year, TDSAT had overturned a government ban on offering 3G mobile services beyond their licensed zones through roaming pacts, saying that it was in national interest to allow better utilisation of scarce radio frequency. The judgement had brought relief to the three operators – Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular – who faced a penalty of Rs 1,200 crore for entering into pacts with each other to offer 3G services in regions where they did not win spectrum in the 2010 auction.
Tata and Aircel, too, had signed intra-circle roaming agreements but ended the pact after DoT issued notices to them. Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular won 3G spectrum in 2010 auction. Airtel won 3G spectrum in 13 out of 22 telecom service area for Rs 12,295.46, Vodafone in nine circles for Rs 11,617.86 and Idea Cellular in 11 circles for Rs 5,768.59 crore.
DoT issued notice to Airtel, Vodafone and Idea on December 23, 2011 asking companies to stop 3G ICR within 24 hours and report compliance but the order was challenged by telecom operators.
After TDSAT judgment, Airtel, Vodafone and Idea had extended service under their 3G ICR at pan-India level except Odisha. Reliance Communications also entered in similar agreement with Tata Teleservices to provide 3G services in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and UP-East telecom Circles.
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