In what is believed to be a major setback to Bharti Airtel, a panel of division bench of Delhi High Court has lifted stay on the notice of Department of Telecom (DoT) that slapped a penalty of Rs. 350 crore and to stop offering 3G services in circles where it did not own spectrum licence. Further details about the court order aren't provided yet.
Last month, the Delhi HC had stayed the DoT notice and also asked the department not to take any action. This stay was then contested by Reliance Communications which led to the vacations.
The DoT believes the 3G roaming agreement between the telecom operators is illegal and should be stopped immediately.
The "sale/provisioning of 3G services through the network of other operators using intra-circle roaming facility leads not only to licence violations but also results in undue enrichment of these mobile phone companies who are collecting revenue from 3G customers without specific authorisation,” says an internal DoT note.
In its notice to Airtel, the telecom department slapped a penalty of Rs. 350 crore for providing 3G outside its licenced zones in seven circles namely Haryana, Kolkata, Uttar Pradesh East, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh.
The court verdict if goes against Airtel, the operator may lose its pan-India presence, ultimately impacting its large number of subscribers in the country.
It's notable the DoT plans similar action against Vodafone and Idea Cellular.