Telecom Ministry today issued notices to three leading telecom firms -- Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea -- asking them to stop their 3G roaming agreements with immediate effect as the pacts are illegal and has sought their response within 24 hours.
"The Department of Telecommunications [DoT] today issued notices to three operators who are having 3G roaming arrangements among themselves without having 3G spectrum in that circles. The DoT has also asked operators to reply till 3 pm tomorrow whether they have stopped offering services or not," a source close to the development said.
Yesterday, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal had ruled that such roaming agreements are in violation of licence norms and the operators cannot be allowed to offer services like this.
The decision comes after the unanimous view of telecom regulator Trai, Law Ministry and DoT that such roaming agreement was in violation of the telecom licences.
Leading operators like Bharti, Vodafone and Idea had entered into agreement with one another to offer 3G mobile services in circles in which they could not succeed in getting spectrum in the auction held last year.
Similar notices have also been issued to Tata Teleservices and Aircel, which had also entered into similar agreements to offer services in six circles. However, the two operators have already discontinued the arrangement.
The DoT had sought a legal opinion on this matter and the Law Ministry had supported the DoT's view.
In an internal note, the DoT had said the roaming agreement among telecom companies for 3G services would lead to a significant loss of revenue to the government.
There may also be an impact on revenues from spectrum usage charges collected from operators, the note added.
Even the sector regulator Trai had termed the existing agreement among operators for offering pan-India 3G services, despite not having spectrum in all the circles, as violation of licence norms, a charge rejected by the industry.
The chiefs of three leading telecom firms -- Bharti, Idea and Vodafone -- had then sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's intervention in the dispute over the 3G roaming pact, failing which they said they would surrender spectrum.
The Prime Minister had assured the industry that the government will look into their concerns and formulate forward-looking policies to sustain growth in the sector.