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India Seeks to Block 3G Roaming Deals Between Networks

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India's Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has again ordered the 3G mobile networks to suspend roaming between each others networks where they lack coverage.

Airtel, Idea and Vodafone each bought licenses in most of the country's 22 "circles", but where they lack a license, they offered roaming onto a rival network that did have coverage in the specific circle.

The networks have been in dispute with the DoT since last December when it first issued a notice saying that 3G roaming was illegal. The networks argued that the had been assured before the 3G license auction that it was permitted, as is currently the case with GSM roaming.

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.

The DoT has now issued "show cause" notices to the mobile networks giving them 60 days to explain why they are still offering 3G roaming services in contravention of its earlier orders. The government is also considering issuing an order to confiscate the revenues each network has generated from the roaming pacts.

Earlier this year, the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) decided that the case as to the legality of the 3G roaming deals had to be sent to a higher court for a final verdict.

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Tags: 3g license  3g roaming  India