Vodafone Idea, Airtel and Jio collectively pay ₹6,045 crore to govt in dues
In October, the Supreme Court had upheld the government’s definition of how AGR levies on telecom operators are calculated. The order dealt a blow to the telecom industry.
Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel, and Reliance Jio collectively paid ₹6,045 crore to the department of telecommunications (DoT) on Tuesday as half-yearly instalments of deferred spectrum dues for airwaves purchased in 2014, three people aware of the matter said requesting anonymity.
Of this, Vodafone Idea paid ₹3,042 crore, Reliance Jio ₹1,053 crore, and Bharti Airtel ₹1,950 crore. These payments are routine, made in September and March, and are not related to the adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues.
Companies have the option of paying the next instalment of spectrum dues in 2022-23 after the Union cabinet in November approved the recommendation of the committee of secretaries on relief measures for the sector and decided to defer receipts of spectrum auction instalments due from operators from the years 2020-21 and 2021-2022. The deferred amounts would be equally spread over the remaining future instalments.
Emails sent to DoT, Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea were unanswered till press time.
The payment on Tuesday by Vodafone Idea comes ahead of the likely visit of Vodafone Group Plc chief executive Nick Read to India this week. Read has sought a meeting telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on 6 March. “However, the meeting has not been confirmed by the government yet,” one of the persons mentioned above said on condition of anonymity.
The meeting request comes at a time when Vodafone’s India entity, Vodafone Idea, formed by merging Vodafone India Ltd with Idea Cellular Ltd of the Aditya Birla group, is struggling to survive after an unfavourable court verdict.
In October, the Supreme Court had upheld the government’s definition of how AGR levies on telecom operators are calculated. The order dealt a blow to the telecom industry. Vodafone Idea is the worst hit by the verdict with more than ₹50,000 crore in past dues. It has so far paid just ₹3,500 crore in AGR dues to DoT.
The company last week asked the government for urgent relief and suggested that licence fee and spectrum usage charges be reduced, and that its goods and services tax credits of ₹8,000 crore be adjusted against its dues. It also requested that it be allowed 15 years to clear AGR dues.
However, the digital communications commission, the highest decision-making authority at the DoT, has not yet taken a decision on whether telecom operators should be provided relief measures for payment of dues related to AGR as more details are required to reconcile these dues. Relief measures passed by the commission would also need Cabinet approval.
The payments have been made three days after Bharti Airtel Ltd on Saturday said it has finished assessing AGR dues and has thus complied with the court verdict. According to the company’s self-assessment exercise, the dues amount to ₹13,004 crore which it has already paid off, Airtel has said.
In addition, Airtel has also paid ₹5,000 crore as “an ad-hoc payment subject to subsequent refund/adjustment” to cover any differences arising from the reconciliation exercise with the DoT.