DoT waves hefty bills at 3G roamers

24 Sep 2012

India’s Department of Telecommunication (DoT) is continuing to pursue cellcos over 3G roaming pacts, the Economic Times reports. The DoT is reportedly planning to issue notices to Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone India calling on the operators to cancel their 3G roaming agreements and pay back the ‘unjust enrichment’ earned through the deals. As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, as no single cellco won pan-India 3G spectrum in the auction in 2010 the operators offer the service outside of their licensed areas via roaming agreements with their rivals. This practice was given the regulatory green light prior to the auction, only for the nation’s telecoms watchdogs to later reverse their decision, calling the practice illegal. Most recently, India’s Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) gave a split verdict on the dispute, allowing the cellcos to continue to operate the roaming deals but allowing the DoT to continue legal action against them.

The DoT’s notices will include penalties of up to INR5.5 billion (USD103.6 million) for offering 3G roaming and the government will look to reclaim the earnings made through the service, which it dubs ‘unjust enrichment.’