Telecom Companies Owe Around Rs 22,589 Crore In Licence Fees; Rest Rs 70,000 Crore Is Interest, Penalty
A man stands in front of posters and banners advertising the services of various mobile networks displayed in the window of a store at the Nehru Place IT Market in New Delhi, India. (Photographer: Sanjit Das/Bloomberg)  

Telecom Companies Owe Around Rs 22,589 Crore In Licence Fees; Rest Rs 70,000 Crore Is Interest, Penalty

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Telecom companies' unpaid licence fees amount to Rs 22,589 crore, while interest and penalties of about Rs 70,000 crore took the total liability to Rs 92,641 crore, sources said.

The licence fee is the major component of the total Rs 1.47 lakh crore adjusted gross revenue dues owed by both operational and non-operational telecom companies to the government till July 2019. Besides licence fees, telecom companies owe Rs 55,054 crore in spectrum usage charges, as per estimates of the Department of Telecommunications.

As telecom operators scramble to comply with the Supreme Court order on AGR dues, the sources said actual pending liability regarding licence fees is Rs 22,589 crore. The balance 74 percent of the total licence fee dues of Rs 92,641 crore is on account of interest on this amount, penalty and interest on the penalty.

Out of the total unpaid basic licence fee, telecom companies that are operational collectively owe around Rs 16,746 crore, according to the estimates prepared by the DoT in July 2019. The unpaid licence fees of Bharti Airtel Ltd. was assessed at Rs 5,528.52 crore, Vodafone Idea Ltd. Rs 6,870.69 crore, Tata Group Rs 2321.31 crore, Telenor (now merged with Airtel) Rs 529.02 crore, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. Rs 614 crore and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. Rs 876.39 crore.

"These estimates were prepared in July. A fresh calculation is in process," an official source said. Meanwhile, Bharti Airtel has paid Rs 10,000 crore, Vodafone Idea Rs 3,500 crore and Tata Group Rs 2,197 crore for both licence fee and spectrum usage charge dues. Another source told PTI that the DoT has found that circle offices have not followed the uniform process and have been "cherry-picking" figures submitted by telecom operators in the calculation of AGR dues.

Also read: India Receives Rs 16,000 Crore From Telecom Firms Towards AGR Dues

The DoT on Feb. 3 issued a letter with guidelines to all Controller General of Communication Accounts to reconcile AGR dues and asked them to give 15 days' time to operators for the submission of appeals and documents related to deductions they make in the final payment, sources said.

"Any delay in payment of licence fee payable, or any other dues payable under the licence beyond the stipulated period attracts interest at a rate which will be 2 percent above the prime lending rate of SBI," the official source said. The official further added that in the case the total amount paid as quarterly licence fee for the four quarters of the financial year falls short by more than 10 percent of the payable licence fees, then a penalty of 50 percent of the entire short payment is levied on the telecom operators.

According to estimates prepared by the DoT for total dues, Airtel owes nearly Rs 35,586 crore, including licence fee, SUC with interest on unpaid amount, penalty and interest on penalty. Vodafone Idea is staring at dues worth around Rs 50,000 crore. Similarly, Tata Teleservices owes around Rs 11,600 crore, BSNL Rs 4,989 crore and MTNL Rs 3,122 crore.

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