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BSNL hits out against 3G roaming alliances

Adding its voice to the debate over Indian 3G roaming agreements, the state-owned operator BSNL has claimed that the spectrum-sharing alliances between private operators across the country are “illegal”.

Taking up a case with the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), BSNL has accused private operators – among them Airtel, Bharti, Idea, Tata and Vodafone – of misleading consumers.

"In some telecom service areas, without paying for 3G spectrum or investing a single penny in setting up telecom infrastructure, network etc. [rival operators] are illegally acquiring and continue to acquire subscriber by misrepresenting that they can provide 3G services”, reads the operator’s claim.

The operator claims that the “illegal arrangements” have caused it “huge” financial losses, and appeals to the tribunal to "pass an interim order restraining the petitioners (operators) from providing 3G services to its subscribers where it has no authorisation to do so.”

3G roaming alliances initially came about as a means of offering nationwide 3G coverage – no one operator was able to obtain the requisite spectrum at auction which would allow them to do this. The government is weighing up a ban on these arrangements, although several operators have claimed that they received “pre-auction confirmation” that any alliances would be respected legally.

A ruling from the TDSAT is due this week.

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