TRAI issues notices to pvt telcos for bilateral 3G spectrum sharing: What’s the issue all about?

Telecom regulator TRAI has issued notices to Airtel, Vodafone and Idea cellular for entering into cartel by means of bilateral sharing of 3G spectrum. In the name of roaming arrangement these companies are offering their 3G services in the circles where these have not paid for spectrum prices.

The issue has so far been misunderstood by many. People have perception that the roaming arrangement is for offering intermittent service to their customers while on roaming in circles where they have not won the spectrum and thus do not have 3G network. There is no problem in this kind of arrangement and TRAI or DOT doesn’t have any issues with that.

But the real problem is that these 3 leading mobile service providers have entered into a cartel and or sharing their spectrum in a way that they are able to offer their own 3G service under their brand name in circles where they do not have spectrum at all. For example Airtel is offering 3G services under their own brand name  in 19 circles while have got spectrum for only 13 circles. Similarly  Vodafone is offering 3G in 18 circles while have won spectrum in 9 circles only. Idea is offering in 17 circles while have won spectrum in 11 circles only. On their websites they have mentioned the name of circles where these are offering 3 G services.

Long back we have asked one of the operators about this as to how they are offering 3G service in circle where they do not have 3G sepctrum. To this we got the reply that we have entered into intra & inter roaming agreements with operators. This is like renting a house and further renting it to some one else.

Is this wrong ? :

Although from consumers point of view they get more choices , but the government has lost money in it. If this is allowed then in future auctions these operators will take spectrum in mutually exclusive circles and then share it among them for launching services in the circles where they do not have spectrum.

Below given is the data on money outgo avoided by these operators by means of bilatereal sharing of spectrum:

    

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