Committee Of Secretaries On Telecom Relief Package Said To Have Disbanded
An employee of CJA Telecoms climbs up the inside of an MTN Group Ltd. cellular phone mast, South Africa.(Photographer: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg)

Committee Of Secretaries On Telecom Relief Package Said To Have Disbanded

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The committee of secretaries, which was constituted last month to explore a financial bailout package for the telecom sector, has been disbanded, according to a government source.

On the issue of applicability of the Supreme Court's adjusted gross revenue ruling on other service providers like Internet service providers, the source said while these cases were separate and such players were not a party to the cases, they still have obligation to pay their statutory dues.

Asked if the CoS has been disbanded now, the source replied in affirmative. On whether a new inter-ministerial panel could be constituted for ironing out other outstanding issues, "No, it is a Supreme-Court defined matter", the source said.

In October, the government had constituted a committee of secretaries— headed by Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba - to explore a financial bailout package for the telecom sector.

The panel was tasked to look at the demands of telecom service providers for deferment of payments they had promised for the spectrum won through auction as well as consider lowering spectrum usage charge. It had also been asked to consider lowering the obligation of operators for providing 5 percent of their annual revenues for the Universal Service Obligation Fund.

Last week, the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved giving Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea Ltd. and Reliance Jio an option to avail a two-year moratorium on payments they were supposed to make in yearly installments for the spectrum bought in auctions.

While the move will give Rs 42,000 crore relief to Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio, the government is unlikely to intervene in the Supreme Court-mandated statutory payments, top sources have said.

Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and other telecom operators have to pay Rs 1.4 lakh crore in outstanding statutory dues following the Supreme Court order on Oct. 24 that sent shock waves through an industry already grappling with billions of dollars in debt and an intense tariff war to retain customers.

The top court last month upheld the government's position on including revenue from non-telecommunication businesses in calculating the AGR of telecom companies, a share of which is paid as licence and spectrum fees to the exchequer.

Also read: Relief For Telecom, Tariff Hikes May Not Offset Unpaid Dues: Fitch Ratings

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