Sunil Bharti Mittal-led Bharti Airtel may have to stop providing 3G services in Haryana, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh (East), Kolkata, Gujarat, Kerala, and Madhya Pradesh.
The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on Friday sent a notice to the company asking it to immediately stop services in those circles where it does not have spectrum. The department also slapped a penalty of Rs. 350 crore on the company for violating licence conditions.
The DoT will soon impose penalty and sent notices to Vodafone and Idea Cellular for stopping 3G services in circles where they do not have airwaves, said sources.
The government auctioned spectrum for 3G services in 2010. No company could get pan-India spectrum. Later, Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular entered into a 3G roaming pact and started providing services even in those circles where they did not have spectrum.
In its notice, the DoT has said that "present arrangements are not 3G intra-service area roaming facility but are similar to MVNO and subleasing of network capacity." The department also said that these agreements create a non-level playing field among service providers.
A Bharti Airtel spokesperson confirmed that the company has received the notice, but declined to comment further. However, the company can potentially challenge the DoT ruling in courts of law.
"As per Unified Access Services (UAS) licence condition 16.1 you are instructed to stop provisioning as well as selling of 3G services to existing as well as new customers of Haryana, Maharashtra, UP (East), Kolkata, Gujarat, Kerala, and Madhya Pradesh immediately. A confirmation of having stopped the services may be provided to this office latest by 1500 hours of March, 18, 2013," the DoT notice said
"Bharti Airtel is directed to pay a financial penalty amount totalling Rs. 350 crore at Rs. 50 crore for each licence mentioned as per condition 10.2 (II) of UAS licence agreement for violaltion of terms and conditions of UAS licence agreements within 15 calender days from the date of issue of this notice, failing this further action may be initiated," it added.