Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio Infocomm has reportedly paid its AGR dues to the government. With the deadline for AGR dues being on Thursday, Jio is the only telecom company that has met the Supreme Court deadline, as per an Economic Times report. Jio owed the government Rs 195 crore, which it has paid.
Jio’s payment comes at a time when both Vodafone Idea and Airtel informed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) that they will not be paying their AGR dues on Thursday.
Bharti Airtel told the DoT that it will not clear any AGR arrears until the Supreme Court hearing next week. A source told IANS that it will wait till the next hearing of the Supreme Court on its modification petition.
Vodafone Idea too, reportedly informed the government that it is waiting for the Supreme Court decision on its plea (for) allowing it to negotiate with the DoT terms and timeline for payment of AGR dues before it takes any further steps on the matter.
Both telecom operators, along with Tata Teleservices filed a modification plea with the Supreme Court to allow the telcos to negotiate with the DoT on conditions and payment schedules of the statutory dues. The court has agreed to hear next week.
Collectively, Vodafone Idea, Bharti Telecom and Tata Teleservices have to pay a total Rs 1.02 lakh crore in AGR-related dues.
Vodafone owes the government Rs 44,200 crore in AGR dues, while Airtel has to pay Rs 35,500 crore. Compared to both, Jio’s AGR due is a meagre amount.
The apex court had on October 24 last year upheld the AGR definition formulated by the DoT and termed as "frivolous" the nature of objections raised by telecom service providers.
The problem originated when telecom operators migrated to a new system offered by the government in 1999, under which they agreed to share a certain percentage of revenue with the government. Operators argued that AGR should comprise only revenue from telecom services, but the DoT insisted that it should include all revenue earned by an operator. It is because of this that Rs 92,000 crore is owed in dues to the government.
However, the industry is currently in a precarious position. While Bharti Airtel has the liquidity to clear its dues, Vodafone Idea could go under if it is made to pay the dues.
Telecom analysts and the Cellular Operators Authority of India have been pressing for a reduction in licence fees (LF) and spectrum usage charges (SUC).