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Indian Government Blocks 3G Roaming Agreements Between Operators

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Note -- this news article is more than a year old.

India's Department of Telecom has ruled that the 3G roaming agreements signed between the major operators are illegal and told the networks to cease them.

None of the networks were able to buy up enough licenses to cover the entire country, and thought they would be allowed to offer national roaming deals where a rival company had coverage.

Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular have all signed mutual 3G roaming deals - and recently threatened to hand back their licenses if the roaming deals were barred.

"The straight question is, whether it is permissible under the various terms and conditions of the licences and the auction under which the spectrum was received. The determination is that it is not," Mr R. Chandrashekhar, Secretary, DoT, said.

There is doubt though as to whether the government can block such roaming deals as it permitted them for 2G services, and the networks claim to have been told before the auction that they would be allowed to offer the same facility with 3G services.

In the May 2010 auction, Vodafone secured licenses in 9 of the country's 22 circles, while Airtel secured 13 licenses, Idea has 11 and Tata gained 9 licenses.

For example, Vodafone and Airtel can provide coverage in Delhi, but Tata and Idea cannot. The situation is reversed in Kerala though.

National roaming agreements would widen Vodafone and Airtel's coverage in the more rural areas, while granting Tata and Idea access to the lucrative Metro areas.

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Tags: 3g license  bharti airtel  vodafone  idea cellular  3g roaming  2g  India