Vodafone India is being threatened with another fine relating to its 3G roaming services. The operator is already appealing against a penalty of INR5.50 billion (USD92.8 million) for offering its customers the ability to roam onto partner networks in parts of the country where Vodafone itself does not hold 3G concessions. The Comptroller and Auditor General is now calling for an additional payment of INR5.49 billion to cover the radio spectrum fees that Vodafone would otherwise have had to pay for the 3G roaming service, Business Line reports. A note from the regulator states: ‘Since Vodafone has been earning revenue using the spectrum allotted through a bidding process to another operator, the company should be made liable to pay a penalty.’
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that in the lead-up to the 2010 3G auction, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had confirmed that inter-circle roaming would be allowed. Aware that pursuing pan-India 3G spectrum would be a risky and certainly costly affair due to the high volume of bidders and limited frequencies available, providers had sought clarification regarding roaming agreements as a potential solution. In December 2011, however, the government performed an apparent volte face and declared such agreements illegal. Legal challenges to the DoT’s policy U-turn rattled through the courts until April 2013, when the Supreme Court ruled that cellcos could continue providing 3G services outside of their licensed areas to existing customers but would not be allowed to sign up new subscribers in those areas.