DoT for appeal against 3G roaming pact, awaiting legal opinion

Even as the Department of Telecom is mulling allowing 3G spectrum sharing under new licensing regime, it is against 3G intra-circle roaming pact signed by operators like Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular which are operating under old permits.

"We have sought legal opinion on TDSAT judgement. Law officers have been appointed recently so we should get their views shortly. Our view has not changed, but further action will depend on legal opinion," a DoT official said.

Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular have signed pacts to offer 3G services in those circles where they did not win the airwaves required for giving third-generation services.

Last week, Reliance Communications entered into similar pact with Aircel to provide 3G services in five more circles where it does not hold 3G spectrum. It holds 3G spectrum in 13 circles.

While DoT had termed 3G spectrum sharing pacts as illegal and asked operators to terminate them, telecom tribunal TDSAT in its April 29 order said that these pacts were not violative of licence agreement.

The DoT has now sought legal opinion on such pacts.

DoT sources said that under old licensing regime, there was restriction on use of certain technology and hence licences of companies which won 3G spectrum were tuned for 3G services only in those areas where they acquired spectrum through auction.

They, however, added that DoT has discussed internally allowing 3G spectrum sharing for new Unified Licence (UL) holder because the latest permit provides for deployment of any technology in spectrum purchased through auction.

"Once incumbent players migrate to UL they will enjoy similar benefits as all spectrum under new permit will be liberalised (free to use any technology) but we have to first see recommendation of TRAI," an official said.

Airtel, Vodafone and Idea won 3G spectrum in 2010 auction under old permits called Unified Access Service License. Airtel won 3G spectrum in 13 out of 22 telecom service area for Rs 12,295.46, Vodafone in nine for Rs 11,617.86 and Idea Cellular in 11 circles for Rs 5,768.59 crore.

The trio are providing 3G services across country except in Odisha circles where none of them hold spectrum for the same.

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