The Department of telecommunications (DoT) may revoke 3G spectrum of five telecom service providers for violation of licence agreement by offering 3G telecom services in states where they do not have spectrum.
Three of such companies - Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular - on Tuesday wrote to the Prime Minister, asking him to intervene in the issue claiming that the services are as per their licence contract.These companies had entered into bilateral roaming agreements with each other to offer 3G services in states where they were not allotted 3G spectrum.
Sources said the law ministry has recommended in its opinion to DoT that such services are illegal, and has recommended action as per rules.
An internal note signed by member (finance) of the telecom commission earlier this month has spelt out amendments made to the telecom licences when they were allowed to offer 3G services. "The 3G spectrum assignment may also be revoked if the licensor determines the user of spectrum to be in serious breach of any of the conditions of the assignment of spectrum (including adherence to auction rules) and the consequent obligations."
As reported by HT on October 29, TRAI had written to the DoT that the 3G services offered by Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Tata Teleservices, Aircel and Idea Cellular through roaming agreements is illegal.
In the same note, the wireless planning cell of DoT has noted: "The instant arrangement between the licencees should not be treated as roaming rather it should come under the case for sharing of spectrum, which is not permitted."
TRAI had pointed out that the telecom licences of operators, who won 3G spectrum, were amended to allow them to offer 3G services. The licence for each state is an independent one. 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 cannot offer 3G services in Delhi.
However, this is precisely what the three operators are doing, through their understanding.
On Tuesday, Sunil Mittal, chairman of Bharti Enterprises, KM Birla, chairman of Aditya Birla Group and Idea Cellular, and Vittorio Colao, the group chief executive of Vodafone, wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh claiming that the intra-circle roaming (ICR) agreements among them are legal.
"In the event that 3G ICR is now deemed impermissible then it would be a clear breach of our contract and the pre-auction confirmation given by the government. In that eventuality, we request that spectrum auction payments be refunded to us with interest along with compensation with all capital investments made by us," they said in the letter.