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India court halts execution of government order banning 3G pacts

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - An Indian court granted a stay on execution of a government order asking telecoms carriers to stop third-generation (3G) services outside their licensed areas through roaming pacts, after top carrier Bharti Airtel Ltd challenged the decision.

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the telecoms ministry to not take any "coercive action" until the next hearing of the case. It did not immediately set the next date of hearing.

The government sold 3G airwaves in a 2010 auction that attracted much higher bids than initially expected and no single company managed to get spectrum in all of the country's 22 zones.

Leading mobile operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Group Plc's India unit and Idea Cellular Ltd currently provide 3G services beyond their licensed zones through pacts between themselves.

The Department of Telecommunications has said such arrangements are "illegal" and asked companies last Friday to immediately stop 3G services offered through the roaming pacts.

(Reporting by Suchitra Mohanty)

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