India's Idea Cellular has denied an accusation by the Department of Telecom (DoT) that it has been signing up new 3G customers in some regions, in violation of a High Court order.
The DoT previously filed a request to initiate contempt of court proceedings against Idea, accusing it of deliberately ignoring the order not to add new 3G users in 10 of India's 22 telecom circles. The Delhi High Court has now given Idea two weeks to reply to the application.
But in a statement, Idea insisted it is fully compliant with the 3G addition restrictions.
“[N]o new 3G subscribers have been added in the “3G Seeker Service Areas” of Assam, Bihar, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, North East, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal,” the company said.
“In fact, the company continues to lose existing 3G subscribers in these 3G seeker service areas since the date of the court order. “
The dispute is centered around the 3G roaming pact Idea reached with rivals Bharti Airtel and Vodafone in 2011. This deal allowed each of the operators to use each others' 3G spectrum in areas where they lacked their own licenses.
But the DoT has long maintained that such agreements are a violation of 3G license terms, and recently ordered all three operators to stop offering services in the circles where they are roaming.
In court challenges the operators managed to effectively stall the shutdown order, but the courts also instructed the operators not to sign up any new customers while the case is being heard.
Operators have insisted that they were given oral assurances during the lead-up to India's 2010 3G auction that they would be able to enter such 3G roaming pacts.