'Govt can't play games in a matter of national importance like allocation of spectrum', says telecom appellate body
Bangalore, May 7, 2014: Three leading Indian telecom operators -- Idea Cellular, Airtel and Vodafone -- have resumed the arrangements that allow them to offer customers seamless 3G services across all their operating circles.
This follows the April 30 judgment of the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) which quashed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT)'s stiff penalty notices to the telecom providers for offering the 3G roaming services in circles where they did not have the requisite 3G licenses by arrangements with the local provider who had.
Airtel has announced the resumption of its 3G services in eight circles: Haryana, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, MPCG (Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh), Gujarat, Kolkata and UP (east).
Idea says its customers in Delhi, Mumbai, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Kolkata & West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Assam and North East can now avail 3G services, and roam seamlessly across the country.
Vodafone's 3G services will be available in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and J&K, UP West, Kerala, Bihar/Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, Assam & North-East.
With palpable bad grace, the Indian government which has been pursuing its curious logic about roaming 3G services in the face of common sense as well as natural justice, has vowed to go in appeal. It remains to be seen whether the government which takes over in May after the General Elections, will bother.
The judgment, is a classic of its kind which goes beyond restating the legal position to articulate broad principles of public good which are expected to underpin government policy. We provide a link to the full judgment and encourage readers to study it as much for the sound common sense as for an elegant treatment of the entire subject of cellular technology and roaming.
The judgement says:
"The Government of India cannot be seen playing games in a matter of national importance such as allocation of spectrums that affects not only the operators but is crucial to the promotion and growth of communication in the country..... the prohibition of intra-circle 3G roaming would have the direct result of under-utilization of 3G spectrums which is plainly not in national interest. Conversely, allowing intra-circle 3G roaming would result in a much fuller and better utilization of the 3G spectrums... The arrangement is thus beneficial to the consumer – the ordinary man, the operators and the State."
Elsewhere the judgment reads: "..The fundamental premise on which all the elaborations are made is that the Unified Access Service licence held by the petitioners is a ‘2G licence’; that a ‘2G licence’ is different from a ‘3G licence’; that the holder of a ‘2G licence’ cannot provide ‘3G services’; that in order to deliver ‘3G services’, it is imperative to have a ‘3G licence’ which is different from a ‘2G licence’. This basic premise is extended to spectrums, ‘services’ and even ‘subscribers’ and it is contended that ‘2G spectrums’ are different from ‘3G spectrums’, ‘2G services’ are different from ‘3G services’ and even ‘2G subscribers’ are different from ‘3G subscribers’. In our considered view, the first and the basic premise is seriously flawed and its extension to spectrums, services and subscribers is even more fallacious."
Find the full text of the judgment here