In a ruling which should definitely come as a huge relief to telecom operators in India, the Supreme Court has said that they can still continue to offer 3G intra-circle roaming facilities to their users. This actually means that mobile phone subscribers will continue to be able to receive 3G coverage when they are in roaming areas, thanks to agreements between telecom operators.
The SC decision comes as a blow to the center which was seeking a stay on this facility. ‘We don’t see any reason to grant an interim stay order,’ noted the bench after the government counsel said that network providers in India should not be allowed to provide intra-roaming facility to new subscribers while the appeal when still pending.
The matter had first reached the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) in April of this year, and the body completely disregarded it, citing that ‘better utilization of scarce radio frequency’ is in national interest. Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular are the companies that would have faced the heat, had the decision not gone their way.
Before the tribunal ruling, they were facing a penalty of Rs 1200 crores for signing pacts with each other in order to grant 3G services in regions where they did not receive spectrum in the 2010 auction. Such agreements are in no way violating license agreement conditions, said the tribunal according to The Times of India.
The matter had reached the Supreme Court after the Department of telecom had asked Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular on December 23 of 2011, to stop 3G intra-circle roaming facilities within 24 hours. Instead of complying with the order, the service providers decided to challenge it back then.