Govt asks mobile carriers to stop 3G roaming - Updated

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The latest move comes after the government said in December that it was illegal to offer 3G data services beyond their allotted zones. The carriers challenged the government order before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), which in July gave a split verdict.

Telecommunications officials will likely on Friday send "show cause notices as well as an advisory to stop (3G) services" through such pacts to companies, said R. Chandrashekhar, the secretary of the Department of Telecommunications, which is part of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. In effect, he is India's top bureaucrat in the telecommunications ministry.

Although companies have 60 days to respond to the notice asking why action should not be taken against them for violating the rules, they will have to stop services immediately, he added.

The government sold 3G airwaves in a 2010 auction that attracted much higher bids than initially expected and no single company managed to get spectrum in all of the country's 22 zones.

Leading mobile operators Bharti Airtel Ltd, Vodafone Group Plc's India unit and Idea Cellular Ltd currently provide 3G services beyond their licensed zones through pacts between themselves.


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No immediate impact due to cancellation of 3G roaming pacts

According to the Cellular Operators Association of India India has about 30 million customers using 3G services with about 20% of them using 3G roaming services. While the fate of continuation of 3G services to these 30 million users is in a limbo, telecom expert feel that this will not impact the numbers of the telecom firm, however it does increase confusion.

“I think most of the players have gone slow or stopped marketing in new circles. They kind of slowed this even prior to the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT’s) judgement. This will certainly impact the existing subscriber base on 3G. They might have to move them to lower frequency. This might also perhaps impact the 4G marketing pacts that some might have wanted to enter,” said Kunal Bajaj, an independent telecom consultant.


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Delhi HC stays govt order banning 3G pacts

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the telecoms ministry to not take any "coercive action" until the next hearing of the case. It did not immediately set the next date of hearing.

The government sold 3G airwaves in a 2010 auction that attracted much higher bids than initially expected and no single company managed to get spectrum in all of the country's 22 zones.


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