New Delhi: The government and three major telecom operators are poised for a face-off, as the Telecom Ministry declared their 3G roaming services as illegal prompting the angry service providers to move TDSAT.

Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea had entered into an agreement to offer intra-circle roaming for the premium 3G services, even as these operators did not have specified spectrum pan-India.

"... It has been concluded that provision of the services by you (operators) who are presently available by virtue of 3G spectrum in 2.1 GHz band only, to your customers through the above mentioned intra service area roaming arrangements is not permissible," DoT notices said.

Reacting to the development, Bharti Airtel said, "We are shocked at the arbitrary decision taken by the DoT to issue instructions to stop intra circle roaming (ICR) for 3G services among the telecom operators."

This is "demoralising" to note that the decision has been arrived at without providing any opportunity of hearing to industry players.

Simultaneously, the three operators also moved telecom tribunal TDSAT challenging the government's decision. TDSAT, which is closed from Saturday for winter vacation, will hold a special hearing on Saturday.

The telecom ministry had also claimed that such an agreement would dent revenue generation for the government by way of losing on revenue usage charges.

The DoT's decision is backed by a view of the Law Ministry which felt that the agreement would lead to a significant loss of revenue to the government. Even, Trai had also termed the agreement as violation of licence norms, a charge rejected by the industry.

No data is available for number of 3G subscribers as the operators have just started offering services recently.

The roaming agreement, signed between the three companies, allowed them to offer 3G mobile services in circles where they could not succeed in getting 3G spectrum in the auction held last year.

Bharti Airtel said it will take "appropriate recourse to protect its rights".

No immediate comment was available from other service providers.

According to Bharti, the decision to terminate roaming pact is tantamount to reneging on a promise. "This will severely dent the credibility of the Government and adversely impact the much needed investments in the sector as well as the country," it said.

"We received the notification from Department of Telecom (DoT) after normal business hours today. We think that this decision of DoT is completely unreasonable...”

"Also, giving a notice at this late hour with courts having gone on vacation from this afternoon is totally arbitrary. We will take suitable course of action to protect our and our consumers' interest," Vodafone Essar said in a statement.

(Agencies)