Airtel, Idea, Vodafone asked to stop 3G roaming service (Lead)

December 23rd, 2011 - 10:52 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 23 (IANS) The department of telecom (DOT) Friday asked three operators — Airtel, Ideal Cellular and Vodafone — to terminate their 3G roaming agreements by Saturday.

The service providers had entered into a roaming agreement to offer 3G services in the circles where they could not win 3G spectrum last year.

The telecom regulator and the enforcement cell of the telecom department had earlier termed the agreement illegal. The DoT has now issued notices to the companies asking them to stop the 3G roaming effective from Saturday.

In an internal note, the DoT had said the roaming agreement among telecom companies for 3G services would lead to a significant loss of revenue to the government.

Citing the move “completely unreasonable” and “irrational”, Vodafone India said it will take suitable action to protect the companys’ and the consumers interests.

“This decision of DoT is completely unreasonable. The 3G roaming agreements that Vodafone has entered into with other operators are in complete compliance with all government rules and regulations and this issue was specifically clarified by DoT before the 3G auction was held,” said official spokesperson, Vodafone India.

“Based on this clarification, we went into the auction in good faith. Now, to completely reverse the stand, is totally irrational. It is going to affect millions of our customers adversely and we think it is a retrograde step by DoT,” he added.

Bharti Airtel called the DOT move arbitrary and said it would take appropriate recourse to protect its rights.

“We are shocked at the arbitrary decision taken by the Department of Telecom (DoT) to issue instructions to stop intra circle roaming (ICR) for 3G services among the telecom operators,” Bharti Airtel said in a statement.

“Bharti Airtel will take appropriate recourse to protect its rights.”

Last month the operators had sought the prime minister’s intervention in the issue and had said the government should refund the 3G license fees if such pacts were not allowed.

The operators also said the DoT action was delayed till Friday evening fully knowing that any legal recourse needed court working days

“To add to our and customer’s dismay compliance is being forced within 24 hours without stating why this haste. We are sure it is well understood by all industry stakeholders that to unwind a strategic deployment like ICR (intra-circle roaming), expert intervention is required as multiple aspects of CRM, network and IT are at play.”

“More importantly customers have to be informed and their financial commitment towards the service has to be protected, as per the regulation.”

Airtel also said the move would adversely impact the proliferation of broadband penetration and investor sentiments.

Last year’s high priced bidding for 3G auctions fetched the exchequer a little under Rs.70,000 crore. Bharti Airtel, Idea and Vodafone had won spectrum in 13, 11 and 9 circles respectively.

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