After the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) last week over-ruled the Department of Telecommunications' (DoT) stay on 3G intra-circle (ICR) roaming services, Airtel on Sunday announced resumption of its 3G services in eight circles.
In a press statement, Airtel said it would now offer the 3G services in Haryana, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, MPCG (Madhya Pradesh & Chhatisgarh), Gujarat, Kolkata and UP (east) from Monday. "Customers in these circles will join the 10-million plus Airtel 3G customers across the country to enjoy exhilarating capabilities of high speed internet on the move,” the statement said. It also announced the tariffs for prepaid and postpaid users. For prepaid, the rates range between Rs 25 and Rs 350, while for post-paid it's between Rs 50-500.
Soon in the fray will be Vodafone, but as of now, the company has not announced its tariffs. Three telecom companies -- Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular had approached the telecom tribunal against DoT's order to stop 3G intra-circle agreement whereby they were to acquire customers in circles where the companies had not won spectrum. While operators have welcomed the new ruling of TDSAT, there are also concerns that the ruling could encourage cartelisation by big players. All the three players had won the 3G spectrum in the auction of 2010.
Airtel had 13 of the 22 service area, Idea and Vodafone in 11 and 9 areas respectively. There are also speculations doing the rounds that DoT was likely to appeal against the TDSAT order in the Supreme Court, but that was most likely after the new government comes in place post polls. According to industry officials, the telecom players may well get into business before the matter gets moved to Supreme Court as the new government will first want to hasten the pace of growth. In DoT's order of December 2011, it directed complete withdrawal of the 3G ICR within 24-hours. Tata Teleservice and Aircel called off their agreement but Airtel, Vodafone and Idea challenged the diktat.
Airtel had sought access to Vodafone’s 3G network in four service area — Maharashtra, Kolkata, Haryana and UP East. Vodafone had access to six circles of Airtel -- such as Assam, Bihar, Karnataka, North East, Rajasthan and UP (west) and seven of Idea's -- such as Andhra Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and UP west. Idea is yet to start 3G service in Punjab.
In July 2012, TDSAT's verdict was a non-starter with one bench member being in favour and other member not in favour. But DoT had slapped a Rs 1,200-crore penalty which got subsequently quashed by the tribunal.