SC notice to telcos on 3G roaming

SC notice to telcos on 3G roaming

The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to several telecom companies, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Tata Teleservices Ltd, on a plea made by the Centre against the Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) order.

The tribunal had quashed cumulative penalty of Rs 1,200 crore imposed on the telecom firms for entering into intra-circle 3G roaming arrangement.
A bench of Justices J Chelameswar and S A Bobde admitted the petition filed by the department of telecom (DoT) for consideration.

The DoT contended that the tribunal “erroneously” held in the order passed on April 29 that the intra-circle 3G roaming arrangement did not violate the Unified Access Service (UAS) licence agreement and it was not open for the government to prohibit the service providers from carrying out the services.

The TDSAT had also struck down the DoT order passed on March 15 last year imposing penalty orders issued against Bharti Airtel,  Vodafone and Idea. It had also set aside the notices issued to Aircel and Tata Teleservices Ltd for alleged violation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act.

“The operators who remained unsuccessful in getting spectrums in the 2,100 Mhz frequency band in certain circles are now trying to provide 3G services to their subscribers in those very circles by entering into the intra-circle roaming arrangement,” it said.

It claimed the TDSAT wrongly held that there were no 2G and 3G licences and that a 2G operator in order to employ 3G technology for delivering 3G services need not have a separate licence than his existing 2G licence.

“The tribunal ought to have appreciated that intra-circle 3G arrangement would result in loss of revenue to the government…it erred in holding that the prohibition of intra-circle 3G roaming would have the direct result of under-utilisation of 3G spectrums which is plainly not in national interest,” the Centre said.

The Centre further submitted that a 2G licensee can only have 2G subscribers as a 2G network working on spectrums in 900/1,800 Mhz bands is not capable of delivering 3G services.

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