Bharti Airtel pays an additional Rs 8,004 cr towards adjusted gross revenue dues to the Department of Telecom. Earlier on February 17, the company had deposited Rs 10,000 crore aggregating to a total payment of Rs 18,004 cr now complied with AGR judgment and directions of the Supreme Court.
The government’s highest decision-making body on telecom matters conducted a meeting on Friday but did not take a decision on relief measures to help telecom operators pay adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues, saying it needs more details to reconcile the dues.
Earlier this week, DoT asked all telecom operators to speed up their self-assessment of AGR dues and submit documents backing their calculations, even after Bharti Airtel Ltd, Tata Teleservices Ltd and Vodafone Idea made partial payments.
According to media reports, the government is exploring the possibility of roping in third-party audit firms to reconcile dues payable by telecom operators after differences emerged in individual calculations made by the government and telcos on 21 February.
The commission, which has representatives from DoT, ministry of finance, ministry of electronics, and information technology and NITI Aayog, met on Friday following a series of meetings between Vodafone Idea chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and top government officials.
Birla met telecom secretary on 18 February and met finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman the following day.
Vodafone Idea was the worst hit by a recent Supreme Court ruling which asked telcos to pay up their AGR dues by 23 January. Since last week’s meetings, the finance ministry and DoT have been discussing possible relief measures to prevent India’s telecom sector from becoming a duopoly.
The government is also examining whether it can issue soft loans to Vodafone Idea from its ₹50,000-crore universal services obligations fund. In October 2019, the Supreme Court had upheld the government’s definition of AGR, by which it calculates levies on telecom operators. The order had a massive blow to the telecom industry, which had for years argued that AGR should only include revenue from core telecom operations. Telecom operators now have to pay dues of the past 14 years with interest and fines. Vodafone has so far paid ₹3,500 crore to the government.
The industry body, which represents Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, has also urged the government to set a minimum price for mobile services starting 1 April, and reduce licence fees and spectrum usage charges to alleviate the financial stress in the sector.
(With inputs from agencies)