However, DoT officials maintained the meeting did not focus on AGR issues but on project implementation for PPP (public-private-partnership) on Bharat Net project.
In fact, just days ahead of this meeting, Vodafone Idea
had told the government that it would not be able to pay the Supreme Court-mandated dues, estimated at more than Rs 50,000 crore, unless state support was extended in terms of relaxed payment tenure along with lower licence fee and a tariff floor that would raise the minimum charges by eight times.
Vodafone Idea, in a letter to the DoT, had even sought adjustment of Goods and Services Tax (GST) refund to the tune of Rs 8,000 crore against its AGR dues.
Cellular Operators’ Association of India, a body representing the telecom industry, had on Thursday urged the Union government to step in so that the telecom sector could be brought back on track.
COAI sought an immediate cut in the licence fee levy to 3 per cent from 8 per cent, as well as a reduction in the spectrum usage charges. Citing India’s low average revenue per user (ARPU) compared to markets like China, Brazil and Russia, COAI had pressed for a floor price “to ensure the sector was sustainable’’.
The Supreme Court, in October last year, upheld the government’s position on including revenue from non-core businesses in calculating AGR of telecom companies, a share of which is paid as licence and spectrum fee to the exchequer. The top court, earlier this month, rejected a plea by Airtel and Vodafone Idea
seeking an extension in the payment schedule.
The court asked companies to deposit their AGR dues immediately.