The telecoms ministry will tell carriers that they will not be allowed to offer third-generation (3G) services through roaming agreements with one another in zones where they do not have their own 3G airwaves, a senior government official told Reuters on Thursday.

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Decision is clear that this is not permitted and that is being conveyed to the companies, the official, who did not want to be named as the information is not yet public, said.

Last year India sold 3G airwaves in a state auction that saw bids coming at much higher levels than initially expected and no single firm managed to get spectrum in all of the country's 22 zones.

Bharti Airtel, Vodafone's India unit and Idea Cellular currently provide 3G services beyond their licensed zones through roaming pacts.

No decision has been taken at this point on any consequential action. That is separate, the official said, when asked if the ministry was planning to impose any penalty on firms.