Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular to Continue 3G Roaming via ICRA

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India's leading mobile service providers, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular today jointly said said they will continue to offer 3G mobile and Data services in their non 3G circles on a pan India basis via ICRA.

The statement came from the telcos as the dispute over 3G Roaming pacts (ICRA) heads to the Supreme Court, after a two-member bench of the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) delivered a spited verdict on a petition challenging the Government's order banning such 3G ICRA.

Earlier the two-member bench of the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has given a spited verdict on the legality of telecom operators getting into roaming pacts to offer 3G services in circles where they do not have spectrum.

TDSAT Member P K Rastogi said "the mobile operators like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular) could not provide Intra circle 3G roaming services as they were not allowed to provide 3G services with 2G licences and spectrum."

However, the Chairman, Justice SB Sinha, ordered the DoT (Department of Telecommunications) to start the procedure afresh, as the department had not followed proper procedure and the operators were not given enough time to present their views, which was violative of natural justice.

The dispute occured as the current 2G licence terms and conditions allow operators to go in for Roaming agreements to enable their subscribers to get seamless mobile network coverage as they move from one circle to other circle in India wherein they doesn’t have any network/spectrum or services.

But in 3G services, all private operators are selling their 3G products and new connections even in circles where they do not have 3G spectrum/licence. Operators having 3G spectrum pay higher revenue share in the form of ‘ 3G spectrum usage fee’.

Rajan Mathews of COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India), the industry body representing GSM operators, said, "Though it is a spilt verdict, we are disappointed. We are looking forward to the final ruling. The DoT now has 90 days to file a rejoinder to the earlier notice. We’ll wait for the 90-day window and then approach the Supreme Court."

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