The Department of Telecom has formally asked Bharti Airtel to stop offering 3G roaming services outside its licenced zones with immediate effect. The telecom department also imposed a penalty of Rs. 350 crore on the operator for providing 3G outside its licenced zones in seven circles namely Haryana, Kolkata, Uttar Pradesh East, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh
The operator has been asked to submit a compliance report within three days. According to reports, the telecom department will issue similar notice to Vodafone and Idea Cellular. It’s notable Union telecom minister Kapil Sibal has approved the DoT move to penalise Airtel.
Earlier the DoT had sought immediate stopping to 3G roaming arrangement between the operators. A DoT panel had said such 3G pacts were ‘illegal’ and violated licence rules. The panel, formed to review 3G roaming agreement, had recommended Rs. 50 crore per service area penalty for such violations of the licence rules.
The “sale/provisioning of 3G services through the network of other operators using intra-circle roaming facility leads not only to licence violations but also results in undue enrichment of these mobile phone companies who are collecting revenue from 3G customers without specific authorisation,” adds the panel in its note.
Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea had bagged licences for 13, 9 and 11 circles respectively in the auction for 3G airwaves held in 2010. The three GSM operators then entered into agreement with each other for offering 3G roaming services by using each other’s airwaves.
Source: Money Control, NDTV Profit