The UK’s Vodafone has complained to Indian authorities about their refusal to extend its licenses in the three important service areas of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, according to a report from the Wall Street Journal.
India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has reportedly refused to renew permits on the basis of a new telecoms law that requires operators to bid for spectrum in a process separate from the issuance of licenses.
Previously operators had been able to acquire licenses and spectrum at the same time.
Vodafone (Newbury, UK) insists that new rules cannot be applied retroactively and that its permits are therefore exempt from the legislation, according to the report.
The operator acquired the licenses when it bought into India’s telecoms market in 2007 and appears to be arguing they are protected by legislation dating back to 1999.
“Any subsequent change in policy cannot apply to licenses granted earlier and rights which have been protected under such licenses,” said T.V. Ramachandran, the resident director of Vodafone India (Mumbai, India), in a letter sent to the DoT the Wall Street Journal claims to have seen.
The report is a further illustration of the difficulties faced by Vodafone in the Indian market, where authorities have appeared increasingly confrontational in their dealings with private-sector players.
Vodafone has been involved in a long-running battle over taxes owed on its original entry into the market, while other companies had licenses revoked last year after authorities claimed to have found evidence of irregularities during their allocation.
More recently, the government has threatened to fine Bharti Airtel (New Delhi, India), Idea Cellular (Mumbai, India) and Vodafone India for striking 3G roaming agreements it regards as illegal.
Vodafone has signed deals with rivals that allow it to offer 3G services in areas where it does not have its own 3G licenses.
Along with Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular, it insists that regulators gave operators permission to form such pacts before the 3G auction began, but authorities are disputing the claim.