Home / Industry / Telecom /  DoT may move SC over TDSAT verdict on 3G roaming pacts

New Delhi: The department of telecommunications (DoT) will likely appeal a telecom tribunal verdict that allowed mobile phone operators to provide 3G services in circles where they did not win spectrum in a 2010 auction.

The appeal would have to be made in the Supreme Court and is likely to happen once a new government takes over after the general election, two senior DoT officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on Tuesday overturned a DoT ban on Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone India Ltd and Idea Cellular Ltd from implementing what is referred to as 3G intra-circle roaming agreements that the telcos had signed with each other in 2011.

The agreements allowed the telcos to offer 3G services using airwaves that the other operators had won for a fee.

The premise behind the pacts was that the operators would use the spectrum till such time they were able to buy their own spectrum in the specified circles in an auction. Intra-circle roaming was allowed by the government to enable operators to roll out services till such time that the government allocated them 2G spectrum they were promised, as part of the telecom licence.

DoT had imposed fines on the telcos amounting to around 1,200 crore. These notices have also been quashed by the tribunal.

In 2012, the tribunal had passed a split verdict on an appeal by the carriers and last year the apex court barred the telcos from adding new 3G customers in the circles where they did not have the necessary spectrum.

On Wednesday, Gopal Vittal, chief executive of South Asia at Bharti Airtel, said he was pleased with the verdict but his company was still assessing whether to implement the spectrum-sharing arrangements.

While the operators have welcomed the ruling, some analysts said the order would encourage cartelization among the operators. “Telcos can now form a cartel of sorts, where one company can buy spectrum in the auction and then the other operators can share it, thereby getting the spectrum at a value less than the market price, from the government," said a senior analyst with a consulting firm who did not want to be identified.

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