The Indian market leader Bharti Airtel has been banned from providing 3G services in seven of the country’s 22 telecom circles. The Indian government has claimed that the operator does not hold licences that cover the Kolkata, Maharashtra and Gujarat areas, and has imposed a fine of INR3.5 billion ($64.6 million).
The operator has contested the order in the Delhi High Court. The Department of Telecoms issued the directive as part of a drive to take more forceful action against operators that provide services in circles where they are unlicensed; Idea Cellular and Vodafone are reportedly facing similar penalties.
Of India’s 22 circles, Bharti holds 3G licences for 13, Idea for 11 and Vodafone for 9. The operators formed spectrum roaming agreements that essentially enabled each of them to provide nationwide coverage without holding spectrum in all requisite circles. However, the government has declared such agreements to be illegal.