MUMBAI, March 23 (Reuters) - India has rejected a request by a unit of Vodafone Group Plc's to extend its mobile phone licenses in three key service areas, the operator said, escalating a feud between carriers and the government in the world's second-biggest mobile phone market.
The telecommunications ministry has asked Vodafone India Ltd and Bharti Airtel Ltd, another top carrier, to win back airwaves in an auction in areas where they complete 20 years in November 2014.
The companies have challenged the auction in a court and stayed away from a bidding process that began last month.
Vodafone has previously said it believed it was entitled to an extension of licenses on terms that are mutually agreed and without having to bid in an auction.
"Vodafone is deeply disappointed with the summary rejection of its request for extension of licenses in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata service areas," the company said in a statement late on Friday.
A Bharti Airtel spokesman declined to comment on the status of the company's request seeking extension of permits.