Millennium Post

Voda Idea pays about Rs 1,367 cr to govt towards licence fee, spectrum dues for Mar qtr

New Delhi: Telecom operator Vodafone Idea has submitted about Rs 1,367 crore to the government towards licence fee and spectrum usage charges (SUC) payment for the March 2020 quarter.

Sources said the Department of Telecom (DoT) has received the payment made by Vodafone Idea this week and added that other operators had already submitted their dues.

When contacted, Vodafone Idea spokesperson declined to comment on the latest payment, or how it was funded.

Sources, meanwhile, said that Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel had already made their stipulated payments of about Rs 1,600 crore and 1,440 crore, respectively towards licence fee and SUC for the recently-concluded quarter.

It is pertinent to mention that industry body Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) had last month approached the DoT seeking extended timelime for telcos to make the statutory Q4 payments, which otherwise fall due on March 25.

Citing the "unprecedented circumstances" in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, the COAI had requested that the compliance requirement, which requires the operators to pay the License Fee and Spectrum Usage Charge (revenue share) by March 25 for Q4 2019-20, on the basis of expected revenue for the quarter, subject to a minimum payment of Q3 be allowed to be made by April 30, 2020 without any interest payment.

It had urged DoT for necessary instructions and clarifications to field offices in this regard.

Sources, however, said that VIL made the payment as no extension in timeline was granted on the dues, after the industry association's submissions to the DoT.

As it is, the telecom industry, is confronted with Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) liabilities (past statutory dues) of up to Rs 1.69 lakh crore for 16 entities.

The self-assessment of past dues estimated by telecom companies like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata Group were a whopping Rs 82,300 crore short of what the telecom department had calculated after the Supreme Court's ruling on AGR.

The apex court had previously lashed out at the telcos for trying to reopen the dues they owed to the government through the self-assessment exercise.

These dues arose after the Supreme Court, in October last year, upheld the government's position on including revenue from non-core businesses in calculating the annual AGR of telecom companies, a share of which is paid as licence and spectrum fee to the exchequer.

In March, following an approval by the Cabinet, an application was moved before Supreme Court (on March 16, 2020) seeking its permission for the licensees impacted by the AGR judgement to pay the unpaid amount of past DoT assessed/calculated dues in annual instalments over 20 years.

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