India’s Department of Telecommunications said Friday it has ordered Bharti Airtel Ltd to stop offering third-generation telecom services in seven service areas where it doesn’t hold bandwidth.
The company has also been asked to pay a fine of 3.50 billion rupees ($65 million) for violating telecom-license rules, the department said in statement.
The department has asked Bharti to stop its 3G services by Monday in Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh (East), Kolkata, Gujarat and Kerala service areas. It has to pay the fine within 15 days.
A Bharti executive, said the company has challenged the order in the Delhi High Court. The court will consider the application Monday, the executive said.
Bharti, Idea Cellular Ltd. and the local unit of U.K.-based Vodafone Group PLC in July 2011 signed agreements between them that allowed their customers to use 3G services in areas where at least one of the companies has bandwidth.
In December 2011, the department asked the companies to stop the services, saying the terms of their 3G licenses don’t allow such pacts.
Bharti, Idea, and Vodafone India then went to the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, which initially stayed the ban.
A two-member bench of the tribunal last July gave a split verdict on whether or not operators could continue providing services in areas where they don’t hold 3G bandwidth.
The department insisted that the operators will have to stop services.
A Vodafone executive said his company hasn’t got any orders from the department, while Idea couldn’t be reached for comment.
The telecom department’s statement didn’t say whether these companies will also face similar action. A senior government official had previously said that the department would take action against all three.
The telecom department’s order on 3G services is one of several regulatory issues faced by telecom operators in India.
[Via: Wall Street Journal]