DoT may penalise Bharti, Hutch for SLD service

New Delhi, May 16 | Updated: May 17 2006, 06:40am hrs
The department of telecommunications (DoT) is contemplating penal action against Indias largest mobile company Bharti Airtel and fourth largest mobile operator Hutchison Essar for offering subscriber local dialling (SLD) a service that enables the roamer to be on local network, escaping the roaming and STD charges.

DoT has concluded that SLD amounts to violation of national routing plan, numbering plan and unauthorised bypass of national long distance traffic to avoid payment of access deficit charge. It was a violation of licence conditions leading to loss to the exchequer.

Bharti and Hutch started SLD services in the first half of 2002 without filing any tariff plan with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

Under SLD, subscribers traveling outside their home networks were given a new number on the same SIM card and recognised as local subscribers when roaming within the companys network.

Sans licence

Subscriber local dialling enables users to be on local network while roaming
Bharti Airtel and Hutch started the services in 2002
The telecom dept ordered them to stop it in June 2003
Hutch stopped in Dec 2003, Bharti in January 2005

SLD calls were routed directly to the in-roamer instead of being routed first to his home circle as is normally the case. As a result, the subscriber had to pay only the local tariff instead of roaming tariff.

Officials said DoT issued instructions to all cellular operators on June 20, 2003 to stop the SLD services immediately.

However, according to DoTs communication to Trai, Bharti continued the SLD services till January 11, 2005 while Hutch continued it till December 31, 2003.

According to DoT officials, the matter is under examination and the department may soon send notices to the companies asking them why action should not be taken against them.