Telcos hid information on 3G roaming pacts says DoT

The DoT lashed out at leading telcos, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone , Idea Cellular, Aircel and Tata Teleservices, accusing these companies of ‘suppressing material documents’ , and also alleging they had ‘not come with clean hands’ on the 3G roaming issue, further intensifying the bitter war of words between the industry and the government.

The department’s response comes after the mobile operators challenged the government’s recent move to declare 3G roaming pacts between mobile operators illegal. On December 23, last year, the DoT issued notices to the telcos ordering them to stop these services offered on these pacts within 24 hours. Mobile phone companies then obtained a stay on the DoT order from the Telecom Dispute Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) even as they slammed the government of reneging on promises with “retrograde”, “irrational” and “illegal” decisions.

The developments come a day before the tribunal takes up the petition filed by operators challenging the government directive to stop 3G roaming services with immediate effect. The tribunal had earlier barred the telecoms ministry from taking any “coercive” action against telcos offering them temporary respite till January 3, when the case will be heard again.

The telecom department in its affidavit filed before telecom tribunal TDSAT and asked it to dismiss the operators’ petition challenging the government’s order of immediately stopping 3G services in areas where companies do not hold the requisite airwaves to offer highend data services. “… in spite of the directions by this Tribunal vide order dated December 24, 2011, the petitioners (operators ) have not submitted the intra-circle roaming agreements entered into with various telecom service providers.

The present petition is liable to be dismissed on this ground alone,” the department’s affidavit said. DoT has also told the tribunal that the 3G roaming pacts were in violation of various terms and conditions of the licence and notice inviting applications for auctions in 2010.

Earlier last year, operators, such as Bharti, Idea, Vodafone, Tata Teleservices and Aircel, entered into 3G roaming deals, enabling them to sign up 3G customers across the country even in areas where they did not have third-generation spectrum.

These pacts allowed them to use each others’ airwaves and offer 3G services such as video calling and high-speed internet on phones seamlessly across the country. Bharti, Idea and Vodafone entered into one agreement while Tata and Aircel forged another.

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