Telecom Minister approves Rs 350 cr penalty on Bharti Airtel
New Delhi: Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal is learnt to have approved the recommendation of a Department of Telecom committee to impose Rs 50 crore penalty each on seven licences of Bharti Airtel that entered into 3G roaming agreements with other operators to offer services beyond permitted zones.
Sources said the committee held that the "breach" of 3G provisions by seven licences of Bharti Airtel does not attract maximum penalty which is termination of the licences but recommended "imposition of maximum financial penalty permitted under licence conditions ie Rs 50 crore against each licence".
The Minister approved the recommendation on February 27, the sources said.
Airtel won 3G spectrum in 13 out of 22 telecom circles in 2010 through auction and entered into a quid pro quo agreement with other players who won the spectrum in other service area where it did not have spectrum to offer 3G services.
DoT has held that it is illegal to offer third-generation or 3G data services beyond a company's licensed zone or circle. On December 23, 2011, the DoT had issued a letter instructing various telecom service providers including the Bharti Airtel to immediately stop providing the intra circle roaming service in all service area.
The operators, however, had moved the tribunal (TDSAT) challenging the DoT order, saying it would harm customers and investment in the sector. In July 2012, the tribunal had delivered a split verdict.
While one member of the two-member bench favoured the DoT's claim that roaming agreements were illegal, the other supported the operators who had challenged it.
DoT had again issued notice to Bharti Airtel in September 2012 after which the company approached Delhi high court against the notice and the matter is still sub-judice.
No immediate comments could be elicited from Bharti Airtel.