Airtel restarts 3G intra-circle data roaming, but hikes rates

Bharti Airtel has restarted its intra-circle roaming agreement with Vodafone India and Idea Cellular to offer 3G services where it doesn’t already have 3G spectrum, but it has used the occassion to jack up 3G prices in these areas.

While earlier, Airtel was offering 3G data at the same rate across the country, whether using Vodafone’s spectrum, Idea’s spectrum or its own, now it has put in place a two-tier system, going by the information available as of now.


In areas, where Airtel has 3G spectrum, it will charge lower at Rs 250 per GB. However, in the new area of Maharashtra and Goa for example, it will charge Rs 350 for 1 GB of prepaid 3G data.

The other states where it has restarted 3G services are Haryana, Kerala, MPCG, Gujarat, Kolkata and UP (East).

Though the Airtel statement said it was restarting 3G, Airtel’s online recharge facility is yet to recognize 3G services available in states such as Maharashtra.

Airtel is able to restart intra-circle roaming 3G services with Vodafone and Idea due to a recent judgment by the TDSAT tribunal.

It had dismissed the government’s contention that doing so was a violation of Airtel’s license terms.

“In response to query no. 205 the response of the DoT was clear that there are no separate 2G and 3G service licenses and further that the entities with 3G spectrum would necessarily need to have an UAS or CMTS licence. This to our mind is sufficient to demolish the basic premise of all the arguments advanced before us that a 2G operator in order to employ 3G technology for delivering 3G services must have a separate licence than his existing 2G licence.

“As regards the permissibility of intra-circle 3G roaming, the answer by the DoT in reply to query nos. 11, 230, 371 and particularly query no. 48 leave no room for doubt that according to the stand taken by the Government immediately before the auction of frequencies in 2100 MHz band the provisions of UAS licence permitted intra-circle 3G roaming.

“In our view, the submissions are quite misconceived and unacceptable for more reason than one. First, the answers given by the Government of India to the queries made by the bidders prior to the auction cannot be dismissed simply on the basis of the notice of disclaimer. The queries were made in earnest and the Government of India was supposed to give their answers with full responsibility.

“The Government of India cannot be seen playing games in a matter of national importance such as allocation of spectrums that affects not only the operators but is
crucial to the promotion and growth of communication in the country,” it had said.

The government had argued that a UAS licencee can provide services to subscribers only over his own network, as the tribunal noted.

“It is also submitted that though Unified Access Licence was a common licence, services are restricted to network which is nothing but spectrum and hence, it was incorrect to claim that merely on the basis of the UAS licence all services including 3G can be provided. It is contended that the cumulative effect of the provisions referred to above is that a licence holder can provide only those services, which have been allowed over the licensee’s network. The network of the petitioners being only for 2G (with carriers of 200 KHz in 900/1800 MHz frequency bands) the petitioners cannot provide “a service requiring a separate licence”. The corollary is that a 2G licensee can only have customers over its own network that to say, the 2G network. It cannot accept customers for 3G services in circles where it failed to win the 3G spectrum.”