The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Tuesday issued notices to Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea for providing 3G services in the states where they do not own spectrum for offering such services.
The operators have entered into bilateral agreements with each other for offering services.
“We have issued notices to these operators,” said J. S. Sarma, chairman, TRAI.
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 vigilence cell (called TERM cell) of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
“If the three operators become pan-India 3G players through roaming agreements, the government will lose about Rs32,000 crore that it would have got as spectrum price,” said a DoT official.
“Moreover, if this is permitted, it will encourage formation of cartel in bidding for all future auction of spectrum,” said the official. “We are still investigating this case.”
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 Bharti Airtel spokesperson.Vodaofone Essar did not comment.
Bharti Airtel has 3G licence in Delhi, Mumbai, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh (West), Rajasthan, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, North East, Jammu and Kashmir and Assam.
Idea Cellular holds 3G spectrum in Maharashtra & Goa, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh & Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, UP (East) UP (West), Punjab, Haryana and Kerala.
Vodafone Essar had acquired 3G spectrum in 10 circles including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh (E) and West Bengal.