DoT panel needs more data for deciding on AGR relief (LD)
Digital Communications Commission (DCC), the interministerial panel of Telecom Ministry, on Friday did not take any decision on possible relief to the financially distressed telecom sector with officials saying more data are required for reconciliation of AGR numbers, dashing the hopes of telcos, especially Vodafone Idea.
The DCC meeting that lasted two hours will be held again in the coming days, sources said.
No decision has been taken on any relief to the telecom companies, sources said, adding, the department needs more data, and that there will be more meetings and reconciliation of AGR figures.
Secretaries in the Ministries of Finance (DEA), Commerce, and Electronics and IT, as well as CEO of NITI Aayog, are the members of DCC. Vodafone Idea, the worst hit telco with Rs 53,000 crore AGR dues, has told the government that it would not be able to pay the dues unless state support is extended to it to survive the crisis.
While the rationale behind giving any relief to the telcos is that government wants to avoid a duopoly situation in the event Vodafone Idea is forced to shut operations, it is also in a bind over implementation of the Supreme Court order which directs DoT to recover the dues.
DoT is examining the COAI and Vodafone Idea proposals and waiting for the self-assessment numbers of the telcos to come to it. Once the department has an idea how much the telcos' calculations are and reconcile with its own demands, the picture will be a little clear about payment.
One option is upfront payment of the entire principal amount on licence fee and spectrum usage charges and 50% of the interest, penalty and interest on penalty. The rest could be paid over four years with interest.
The other option is once DoT gets the self-assessment figures of the telcos, it may ask them to pay that amount immediately and the gap between the DoT and telcos could be a staggered payment after reconciliation of both figures over 4 to 5 years, said sources.
Both the options seek some payment first then any relief to the telcos on the remaining amount payment.
Airtel has AGR dues of Rs 35,500 core, Tata Teleservices has said it has submitted Rs 2,197 crore as full and final amount against an AGR order of Rs 14, 829 crore. Airtel and VIL are yet to submit self-assessment numbers of AGR.
The government is also said to be considering, among others, setting up a stress fund for telcos to draw from and pay off AGR dues and repay on easy terms, besides deferment of licence fees and spectrum usage charge (SUC) for a substantial period to free up cash flows.
Airtel has paid Rs 10,000 crore and VIL has paid Rs 3,500 crore as AGR dues.IANS