India's leading telecom service provider Bharati Airtel will be asked to stop providing third generation (3G) services in seven regions where the operator does not have high-end data services.
The Times of India reported that Airtel was issued a notice from the Department of Telecom (DoT) to stop services in these circles within the next 15 days. The operator will also penalised ₹350 crore - ₹50 crore for each of the seven areas where it provides 3G services through roaming pacts with Vodafone and Idea Cellular.
The 3G roaming pacts came into being following the 2010 auction of 3G airwaves in which Bharti, Vodafone and Idea were the highest bidders for 13, 9 and 11 circles, respectively. These pacts allowed the GSM operators to offer 3G services through each other's airwaves.
Vodafone and Idea Cellular are also expected to receive similar notices from DoT in the coming days. As of now, Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal has approved only the DoT's decision to slap a fine on Airtel,
Airtel will also be asked to terminate its 3G services in those regions that don't come under its licensed zones.
In September 2012, DoT ordered Airtel to discontinue its 3G roaming agreements in regions where it did not have third-generation spectrum. Airtel then obtained a stay from Delhi High Court on DoT's move.
In a notice served to Airtel DoT also said, "It has also been made clear that the documents is for information purpose only and has no binding force. 3G is a standalone service and not an extension of or in continuation of 2G spectrum, is clear from the Notice Inviting Applications conditions," reported The Economic Times.