High court stays Bharti 3G roaming ban

18 Mar 2013

Indian wireless operator Bharti Airtel has been allowed to continue offering 3G roaming services until a hearing on the matter on 8 May, after sector regulator the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) last week ordered the provider to cease offering 3G in circles where it does not hold spectrum. According to local news sources, the regulator issued the instruction on Friday, including a fine of INR3.5 billion (USD64.57 million). Similar orders are expected to follow for other 3G roaming providers Idea Cellular, Vodafone India, Tata Teleservices and Aircel. However, the Delhi High Court today stayed the order until a hearing could be held on 8 May.

As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the thorny matter of 3G roaming has been a bone of contention between operators and authorities. The practice of offering 3G services in circles where a provider does not hold spectrum via roaming agreements with other cellcos was given a green light prior to the auction of 3G spectrum in 2010, only for the watchdog to later reverse its decision. Regulators have since been battling with providers to ban the practice, though arbitration from bodies such as the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has so far been inconclusive.