With the Department of Telecom terming the intra-circle 3G roaming deals of telecom companies as illegal, Tata Teleservices and Aircel have scrapped an agreement for offering services in each other’s circles.
According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone have entered into similar 3G roaming deals. Aircel too had sealed such a deal with Tata Teleservices and was offering 3G services in areas where it has no 3G license to operate.
The telecom department’s access services wing has also asked the department to impose penalties on the offending telecom companies.
In a written statement, India’s junior telecom minister, Milind Deora, told the Indian Parliament today that the matter of 3G roaming deals was under examination.
“The Telecom Regulator Authority of India has intimated that in their opinion, private mobile operators who are providing 3G services in those service areas where they have not been allocated the 3G spectrum using intra circle roaming arrangements is, prima facie, a violation of the terms and conditions of license. TRAI has further intimated that if the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) finds that these service providers are in violation of CMTS/UAS license terms and conditions, it may take appropriate actions as per terms and conditions against the service providers in the concerned service areas. The matter is under examination,” Deora said.
The development comes a month after top executives of three leading telecom companies wrote to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the issue of the controversial 3G roaming deals. The letter sought Singh’s intervention after the government’s move to disallow the 3G roaming deals between telecom companies.
“We seek your most urgent intervention to ensure that contract and promises are honoured, otherwise the reputation of an acclaimed, transparent auction will be harmed irreparably,” the letter said. The companies also threatened to exit 3G services if the promises made by the government were not honored. “In the event that 3G Intra-Circle Roaming is now deemed impermissible, then, it would be a clear breach of our contract and the pre-auction confirmation given by the government,” the letter said.
Only government-owned MTNL and BSNL have acquired pan-India license for offering 3G services. Private telecom players like Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone, Reliance Telecom, Tata Teleservices and Aircel only bid for selective circles and got license where they bid the highest. Some of these private players were entering into 3G roaming deals with each other and offering services in areas for which they have not paid any license fees.