India’s Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has given a split verdict on intra-circle 3G roaming, its two member bench differing in their findings. According to local daily The Hindu, the TDSAT chairman, Justice S.B. Sinha supported the operators’ plea against the government’s decision to prevent cellcos offering 3G services in areas where they did not receive licences whilst the other member of the bench, P.K. Rastogi, dismissed the plea, saying that they could not provide 3G roaming. The TDSAT’s verdict allows the cellcos to continue services until a further order is issued.
As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the dispute arose following the distribution of 3G concessions in 2010. When none of the participating cellcos were able to win pan-India spectrum, the operators signed 3G roaming agreements to offer 3G services in circles where they failed to bag concessions. Despite giving such agreements a green light prior to the spectrum auction, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the Department of Telecommunciations (DoT) ruled in late 2011 that the deals were illegal, instructing operators to cease the practice and warning that they would face penalties. Outraged by the ‘arbitrary’ and ‘irrational’ decision by the regulators, the operators called on the TDSAT to intervene.