TDSAT Okays 3G Intra-Circle Roaming Agreements, Bharti, Vodafone & Idea Fines Quashed
This will come as a big relief to 3 of largest telecom operators in India, The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has cleared the 3G intra-circle roaming pacts that were signed between Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular last year. The TDSAT said that these pacts did not violate any license conditions.
Last year in March, DoT had slapped Rs. 350 crore fine on Bharti Airtel for allegedly violating the license conditions for 3G roaming. In April 2013, Vodafone and Idea Cellular were slapped with fines in tune of Rs. 550 crore and 300 crore respectively. The operators had made agreements with each other that allowed them to sign up 3G customers even in service areas, where they did not have permits. DoT had said that this violated 3G license conditions and were illegal.
TDSAT in it’s ruling quashed the penalty of Rs 1,200 crore imposed on the three operators by the telecom department (DoT).
According to the agreements, Bharti Airtel would have been able to use Vodafone’s 3G network in 4 circles that included Maharashtra, Kolkata, Haryana and UP East.
Similarly as per the agreement, Vodafone would have got access to Airtel’s 6 circles that included Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, North East, Rajasthan and UP West. Besides this, Vodafone also had a pact with Idea Cellular for their 7 circles (Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, UP West and Punjab)
On the other hand, Idea Cellular would have got access to Vodafone’s 3G network in Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Chennai and Kolkata.
TDSAT’s ruling comes in a very timely manner, as just yesterday RCOM had announced a Tripartite agreement with Aircel and Tata Teleservices where all providers would use each other’s network to provide 3G internet access to over 250 million existing customers.
In our view, the intra-circle pacts are necessary not only from operator’s perspective but from customers point of view as well. The pacts enable these operators to utilize their own spectrum capacity to fullest, and at the same time offer 3G services in areas where they don’t have spectrum. This enables them to save steep spectrum costs, and offer cheaper access to consumers.
For consumers, they benefit because they get 3G access any where in the country, that too at the cheaper rate.
Overall, this ruling from TDSAT is a win-win for all!