The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has sought legal opinion from its Law Officer on the suitability of filing an appeal in the Supreme Court against the order given by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) that has permitted telecom operators to offer 3G services even in circles where they do not have required spectrum.
The DoT will have to file the appeal in the SC within 90 days from the TDSAT order that came on 29 April. While the DoT had earlier in 2011 banned 3G intra-circle roaming, an arrangement between operators to offer 3G services through roaming agreements to offer 3G services in circles where they do not have 2,100 MHz spectrum.
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DoT had also imposed a cumulative penalty of Rs 1,200 crore on three operators - Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular which the TDSAT has quashed in its order.
In a recent communication, the DoT has stated that 2G licencees can not provide 3G services and cannot acquire subscribers for 3G services by way of roaming facilities. Operators would need separate licences for offering 3G services.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has also held that 2G licencees cannot provide 3G services, according to the communication. By way of intra-circle roaming, it further stated, operators are acting as mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), which is not permissible.
Meanwhile, the DoT's draft guidelines on spectrum sharing have noted that telecom operators, having third-generation (3G) spectrum licences, will not be permitted to share spectrum among themselves. An earlier order had disallowed the companies from acquiring new subscribers in the circles where they did not possess 3G spectrum, causing a 30 per cent reduction in their data revenues, according to industry estimates.
The three operators can now offer pan-Indian 3G services to their customers across all circles, despite having the requisite 2,100-MHz spectrum in only a few. Bharti Airtel has 3G spectrum in 13 of the 22 telecom circles, while Vodafone has it in nine and Idea Cellular in 11.
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