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3G roaming agreement within licence framework: COAI

3G roaming agreement within licence framework: COAI

New Delhi: Defending the 3G roaming agreement between telecom operators, the Cellular Operators Association of India on Thursday said it obeys conditions provided in the Unified Access Services Licence (UASL) under which service providers operate all kinds of telecom services.

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He added that there was no separate 3G licence that was issued to telecom operators that won 3G spectrum in a 2010 auction.

“The licence was amended only for the use of 3G spectrum, whereas the services that could be offered continued to be governed by the original UASL. The licence condition allows roaming," Mathews said.

The COAI director general also cited a clarification provided by the department of telecommunications in a question-and-answer session prior to the 3G auction on whether customers of UASL licencees that do not hold 3G spectrum would be allowed to roam in the 3G networks of other UASLs in the same licenced area.

“The DoT at that time clarified that the roaming policy is applicable to the licences and not to specific spectrum bands. Hence, roaming will be permitted," Mathews said.

He mentioned that government has said that mobile virtual network operators (MVNO) will not be allowed.

“MVNO by definition means an operator which does not have its network. If an operator does not have a network, then it’s a different issue, but if an operator has a licence and network to operate in a circle, then he can enter an intra-circle roaming agreement with another," Mathews said.

He dismissed allegations of a loss to the government exchequer and said that intra-circle roaming arrangements facilitated efficient utilisation of spectrum.

“It brings additional revenue to the government without putting any immediate pressure on the government to increase the availability of 3G spectrum. There are no losses to the government exchequer due to 3G roaming, as has been alleged," Mathews said.

He also said if the claim is that the government lost revenue, it can take the spectrum back, refund the operators and put it up for re-auction to realise better value.

Telecom regulator Trai recently sought information from service providers on their bilateral agreements for entering into 3G roaming pacts to ensure that there is no violation of licence terms and conditions. According to sources in the DoT, it is being debated whether these agreements are legally valid or not.