The Telecom Operator Company, Bharti Airtel has to pay a penalty of Rs 3.5 billion to Indian government for entering into illegal roaming pacts for seven circles, where the operator did not have licences for offering 3G services.
Kapil Sibal, Minister of Communications and IT, Approved the penalty. Earlier, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had approached Sibal for approving the penalty imposed on the operator.
As per a committee constituted by DoT to look into the matter of violation of 3G roaming pact by Bharti Airtel, the operator was found breaching the terms and conditions of 3G roaming agreements. The committee maintained that despite the violations, the operator does not attract maximum penalty which amounted to the termination of its 3G licences. Instead, the committee recommended imposition of maximum financial penalty of Rs 0.5 billion on Bharti Airtel for breaching the 3G roaming pacts in seven circles.
Previously, Bharti Airtel had won 3G spectrum in 13 out of 22 telecom circles in spectrum auction in 2010. . Subsequently, it entered into agreement with other players who held 3G licences in other service areas in its bid to offer users 3G services in circles where it did not have licences.
However, DoT held that it was illegal for the operators to offer 3G data services beyond their licensed zone or circle. On December 23, 2011, DoT issued a letter instructing telecom service providers including the Bharti Airtel to immediately stop providing the intra circle roaming service in all the service areas.
The operators, however, moved Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal against DoT, which delivered a split verdict on the matter. Thereafter, DoT once again issued fresh notice to Bharti Airtel in September 2012, following, which the operator approached Delhi High Court. The matter is still sub-judice.