The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) on Tuesday said that it has asked the government for a reduction in license fees (LF) and spectrum usage charges (SUC). COAI, the industry body representing operators like Vodafone Idea and Airtel, said that it has urged the government not to excise GST on license fees and SUC as they are not services. While COAI has put forward the requests to the government, Rajan Mathews, director general of COAI said on Monday said that the industry has been working with the government to serve the customers. Mathews said that the first focus of the industry would be to keep its networks up and running at 99% of the time.
“COAI has asked for a reduction in the License Fees (LF) and Spectrum Usage Charge (SUC) as well as modifications in the GST where spectrum debt payments, LF and SUC payments would not be classified as “services” and hence not attract GST”, Mathews said on Twitter.
While it remains to be seen if the government does follow up on requests from COAI, the industry body recently said that the operators provided Rs 600 crores of benefits to prepaid users. In a response to an Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) directive, Mathews said that the sector itself was in an unstable situation due to huge debts.
Mathews highlighted that the telecom players offered benefits through validity extensions and extra talktime to over 280 million customers. Additionally, it was said that the operators should receive subsidy if the regulator or the government felt that more benefits should be passed onto the customers. TRAI in its directive had said that the benefits offered by the telecom operators should be extended to all prepaid users.
Despite the challenges, Mathews on Monday said that telecom operators have been working with the government to maintain network up time and ensure a seamless moment of telecom staff.
“The first focus of the industry is principally looking at keeping our networks up & running at 99.99 per cent of the time and ensuring that the quality of the service that customers are expecting are maintained so we are looking at logistics on the ground, we are working with the government to ensure that our people have free movement on the ground that they can go and maintain the towers addressed cut fiber issue bring up service where that is impacted,” Mathews said.