The department of telecommunications’ (DoT) Telecom enforcement resource and monitoring (TERM) cell has recommended action against Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular for providing 3G services in the states where they do not own spectrum to offer such services.
As per the Indian Telegraph Act, criminal proceedings can be initiated against the companies that offer telecom services without licences.
Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea have entered into bilateral agreements with each other and are offering 3G services with one taking spectrum from the other. “TERM cell is of the opinion that these 2G service providers, who are providing 3G services by way of intra-circle/intra-LSA roaming agreements with 3G service providers, is illegal and action under IT Act 1885 may be initiated against them. In addition action against licence may be initiated against the 3G service providers entering into such agreements,” said an internal DoT note.
Telecom licences of operators, who won 3G spectrum, were amended to allow them to offer 3G services. Licences for each state is an independent licence. Hence, the licences for only those states were amended for which the operators won 3G spectrum. For example, if a company “A” does not have 3G spectrum for Delhi, then it can not offer 3G services in Delhi.
However, this is what the three operators are doing, according to information accessed by the TERM cell. “If the three operators become pan-India 3G players through roaming agreements, the government will lose about R32,000 crore that it would have got as spectrum price,” said a DoT official.
The three operators, however, deny any wrongdoing. “We are following licence terms and conditions,” said a spokesperson of Idea Cellular.
“Bharti Airtel is in complete compliance of the licence conditions and all our agreements are as per the stated government policy,” said a Airtel spokesperson. Vodafone did not comment.