The Wall Street Journal said that India’s Department of Telecommunications is today “likely” to issue notices to mobile operators telling them to stop national 3G roaming.

There has been a difference of opinion between the regulators and the operators for a number of months about whether such deals are permitted, as a way to provide subscribers access to 3G connectivity in markets where the operators do not have their own spectrum.

Indeed, India’s Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal previously reached a split verdict on the issue.

A number of operators are using national roaming to improve their 3G coverage, including an alliance between tier-one operators Airtel, Vodafone and Idea.

However, they were then told that it was illegal for them to offer 3G services beyond the zones where they held their own licences.

State-owned operator BSNL has also been critical of the practice, accusing its rivals of forging “illegal” alliances.

Criticism has focused on the fact that the operators have been offering 3G services without the need to pay for licences, spectrum or infrastructure – even though they are using roaming to provide infill alongside their own network deployments.

The operators involved have said they had received a confirmation that 3G roaming would be allowed prior to the auction of 3G spectrum in the country, and that the ban is a breach of contract.