SC bars Bharti from adding new 3G clients in 7 zones

NEW DELHI Thu Apr 11, 2013 12:49pm IST

Men make phone calls as they sit on a railing with Bharti Airtel billboards installed on it, along a sidewalk in Kolkata February 1, 2013. REUTERS/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

Men make phone calls as they sit on a railing with Bharti Airtel billboards installed on it, along a sidewalk in Kolkata February 1, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Rupak De Chowdhuri/Files

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Bharti Airtel(BRTI.NS) cannot add new 3G customers in seven zones where it does not own the airwaves and offers the services through pacts with other carriers, the Supreme Court said on Thursday, pending a final ruling in the dispute.

Bharti can, however, continue 3G services in the zones for its existing customers, the court said, after hearing an appeal by India's top telecommunications carrier challenging a government ban on 3G pacts between carriers.

Bharti, Vodafone India (VOD.L) and Idea Cellular (IDEA.NS) currently offer 3G services outside their licensed zones through pacts with each other as no carrier managed to win the airwaves for all of India in a 2010 auction.

The telecommunications ministry says the pacts are illegal. It had asked the carriers to end the pacts immediately and also imposed penalties on them.

(Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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