Vodafone India on Tuesday turned the tables on the government by seeking the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) response as to why the Centre repeatedly confirmed that 3G intra-circle roaming (ICR) arrangements were permitted and later backtracked. The company said it had invested in 3G spectrum based on the clarifications made by DoT during the auction in 2010 that ICR arrangements were allowed.
“The illegal position now being taken by DoT is causing grave uncertainty and prejudice to us,not the least to mention the continuous irreparable damage being caused to our business and is also against public interest , Vodafone India said in a letter to the DoT on Tuesday.
Vodafone India has also asked the DoT to withdraw its showcause notice that was sent to the company on May 31 for allegedly violating 3G service roaming norms.
The company said that in February 2010,the DoT said the roaming policy is applicable to the licences,and not to specific spectrum brands. “Roaming will be permitted. However,at present,mandatory roaming is not part of government’s telecom policy,” DoT said in response to a query on 3G roaming policy.
In a May 31 showcause notice to the company,the DoT sought imposition of penalty and termination of Vodafone India’s unified access service (UAS) licence agreements in Maharashtra,Tamil Nadu,Haryana,Uttar Pradesh (East),Delhi,Chennai and Kolkata.
According to the DoT,though roaming is permitted,an intra-circle arrangement cannot be used to sell 3G connections in areas where the operators do not have spectrum.
In a July 2 letter to the director of DoT, Vodafone India’s resident director (regulatory affairs and government relations),TV Ramachandran,said the position now being taken by DoT “is arbitrary,inconsistent,contradictory,unfair and unreasonable,which will impact all future auctions conducted by DoT as the bidders would have no faith on DoT’s statements.
Vodafone India paid Rs 11,617.8 crore for 5 Mhz spectrum in nine service areas. The company said DoT had confirmed to bidders that customers of UAS licence,who do not hold 3G spectrum,will be allowed to roam networks of other UASLs in the same licenced areas.
Vodafone India,on Monday,agreed to pay Rs 4,000 crore to the DoT to continue holding telecom spectrum in Delhi,Mumbai and Kolkata. Last month,the DoT slapped a fine of Rs 1,263 crore on Vodafone India for allegedly under reporting revenues during financial years 2007-08 to 2010-11.
The company has also been trying to settle a Rs 11,200-crore-tax liability case with India over tax on its acquisition of Hutchison’s stake in Hutchison-Essar in 2007.