NEW DELHI, April 5 India's telecommunications
ministry has asked Vodafone Group Plc's local unit and
Idea Cellular to stop 3G services outside their
licensed zones and imposed penalty on both carriers, a senior
government official said, in a dispute that has dragged on for
more than a year.
The orders follow a similar directive to top mobile phone
carrier Bharti Airtel Ltd last month, which the
company is fighting in courts. Vodafone and Idea are also
expected to challenge the government orders.
The Department of Telecommunications has asked Vodafone
India to pay a penalty of 5.5 billion rupees ($100 million) and
Idea Cellular to pay about 3 billion rupees, the official said.
Vodafone India and Idea declined to comment.
The dispute over 3G pacts is one of several regulatory
challenges hurting carriers in the world's second-biggest mobile
In a 2010 auction, no single carrier managed to win 3G
airwaves for all of India's 22 telecommunication zones as bid
prices were far higher than expected. Bharti, Vodafone and Idea
provide 3G services beyond their licensed zones through pacts
with each other. The government says such pacts are "illegal".