Sibal Hopes Successor Will Change TDSAT Ruling on 3G Roaming Pact

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Sibal Hopes Successor Will Change TDSAT Ruling on 3G Roaming Pact
Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal on Monday expressed the hope that his successor will challenge the TDSAT ruling on 3G roaming pact between telecom operators, while maintaining that the present regime did not allow such arrangements.

"The government position is very clear on it. Courts are entitled, TDSAT is entitled to rule the way it is ruled. I hope the successor government will challenge it," Sibal told PTI in an interview.

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on April 29 allowed Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular to continue their 3G ICR (intra-circle roaming) agreement, two-and-a-half years after the Department of Telecom (DoT) and the operators got into a dispute on this.

When asked why the DoT is not approaching the apex court under present regime, Sibal said: "On 16th (May) the election results come and this all takes time. You take opinion of ASG or whatever then you move court of law. I even haven't read the judgement. I hope it happens. Successor government may take different position. This is present government position."

The 3G pact enables companies to sell 3G services in parts of the country where they do not even hold 3G spectrum but can use their partners airwave frequencies under the agreement.

Airtel has 3G spectrum in 13 out of 22 service areas, Vodafone in 9 and Idea in 11 circles. With help of 3G ICR pact, the trio are now able to provide 3G services throughout the country, except in Odisha.

"The Department's views are my views otherwise the Department would have not opposed the 3G ICR, but we are not loggerheads with operators. There is a regime... [there are] certain licence conditions and we all must abide by those licence conditions. Under those licence condition 3G ICR was not allowed," Sibal said.

He said there are other telecom operators who have paid licence fee for a particular circle.

"You can't allow others to access consumers from that very circle where people have paid licence fees (under same rule). They are operators who are not using it and there are operators who are against it," Sibal said.

The minister, however said, the successive government can think of regime where such agreement among telecom service providers can be allowed but "under the previous regime it was not allowed".

Airtel, Vodafone and Idea had said that allowing 3G ICR for high speed mobile internet services would benefit consumers as they will have more choices at competitive rates.

The minister said that the present government has taken position and "whether that position is right or wrong will bedecided by the Supreme Court."

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