In a strong rebuttal to telecom operators on the issue of 3G roaming, the government has alleged that service providers have “not come with clean hands” and that they have “suppressed material documents”.
Filing an affidavit before the TDSAT, the Department of Telecom has requested the tribunal to dismiss the petition of telecom operators challenging the government directive to stop 3G roaming immediately.
DoT said the 3G roaming pact by operators is “in violation of various terms and conditions of Cellular Mobile Telecom Service License and various terms and conditions of the Notice Inviting Applications (NIA) dated 25.02.2010 for 3G/BWA Auction“.
The DoT has restrained telecom companies from offering 3G service in areas where they had failed to win 3G spectrum in the auction held in 2010.
Operators had entered into agreement with each other to offer 3G services in the name of inter-circle roaming, thereby avoiding any spectrum usage charge or licence fee to the government.
The DoT further submitted in its affidavit that “in spite of the directions by this Tribunal vide order dated December 24, 2011, the petitioners (operators) have not submitted the intra-circle roaming agreements entered into with various telecom service providers. The present petition is liable to be dismissed on this ground alone.”
DoT had on December 23, 2011, issued notices to telecom companies saying their 3G roaming pacts were illegal and should be stopped immediately within 24 hours.
Operators — Bharti, Vodafone, Idea, Aircel and Tatas — challenged the DoT’s decision before the TDSAT on the same day.
Passing an interim order on an urgent petition moved by operators against DoT directive, the TDSAT on December 24, 2011 restrained the government from taking any coercive action against them.
The DoT contended that after the TDSAT order operators should not add new subscribers by misrepresenting that they can provide 3G services in those circles for which they are not authorised.
“The petitioners continue to act under the illegal agreement(s), which are in contravention to letter dated 23.12.2011, which is impugned in the present petition,” said the DoT.
It further submitted that such misrepresentation is made by operators to its subscribers on the strength of “illegal arrangements/agreements” entered with other telecom service providers.
DoT also said that operators’ petition was also not maintainable as relief sought for would amount to altering the terms and conditions of the CMTS/UAS Licence Agreement and the NIA for 3G/BWA Auction.
“It may be noted that there is no challenge to the terms and conditions of the CMTS/UAS License. However, by way of present petition the petitioners are mischievously seeking such reliefs which are contrary to the terms and conditions of the CMTS/UAS License and the NIA for 3G/BWA Auction,” said the DoT.
The batch of petitions filed by telecom operators — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular, Tata Teleservices and Aircel — is coming for hearing tomorrow before the tribunal.
The DoT affidavit came over the notice issued by the tribunal on the operators’ petition. The TDSAT had also asked operators to file a rejoinder over DoT’s reply.