The global spread of Covid-19 has created instability in various industries around the world, including the Indian telecom sector. Indian Government has recently declared 21 days lockdown to fight back the deadly virus. Telecom Industry which is worst hit by Covid-19 is also facing operational issues as millions of people are using networks at the same time. According to an ET Telecom report, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT)has subsided the issues of default in AGR payments and are just focusing on maintaining the digital infrastructure which will cater the needs of billions of people are who are relying on the stable network to work from home. Telcos such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea will get huge relief amidst the outbreak of Coronavirus.
Supreme Court heard the matter of AGR dues on March 17, 2020, and slammed the telcos along with DoT officials. The Supreme Court stated that self-assessment of AGR dues is contempt of court and DoT should not have allowed telcos to self-assess their dues. Not only this, but the supreme court also directed the telcos to pay their AGR dues as estimated by DoT without any delays.
However, the court agreed for deferred payment mechanism, which was scheduled to be heard in two weeks. Since the entire nation is a lockdown, the next hearing regarding AGR dues is unclear. As per telcos, a situation of duopoly and monopoly will disrupt the entire telecom industry at the time of crises where telcos have to provide services to 1.3 billion people.
As per the estimations of DoT, telcos have to pay a cumulative amount of Rs 1.47 lakh crore towards AGR dues. Vodafone Idea, which is the most affected telco has to pay a whopping amount of Rs 58,254 crore towards AGR dues. However, the telco giant has just paid its self-assessed principal amount of Rs 6,854 crore. On the other hand, Bharti Airtel has to pay Rs 43,980 crore out of which the telco has cleared its self-assessed AGR dues worth Rs 18,004 crore. Tata Teleservices has to pay Rs 16,798 crore out of which the telco has just cleared Rs 4,197 crores.