The industry body represents 1.50 lakh mobile retailers who may be unable to pay their monthly instalments and interest towards credit cards, vehicle loan, home loan and business loans taken by them. A similar letter highlighting the concerns of the mobile retailers was also sent to non-banking finance companies (NBFCs).
“There have been no notices sent to telcos on their AGR payments or any discussions on it. Now, the focus of the Department of Telecommunications is on how to ensure smooth running of operations during the coronavirus pandemic,” said a government official who did not want to be identified.
According to senior executives in the sector, letters were sent to the DoT and Trai on Saturday. “Telcos do not want customers getting charged for accessing necessary sites, including government ones or banking sites until restrictions to prevent Covid-19 are lifted,” said a senior telecom executive, who did not wish to be identified.
With both India Inc and personal holiday goers also likely to postpone international travel in the summer due to the pandemic, telcos will be faced with a further drop in revenue from international roaming, which was a key component of high-tariff customers.
Operators said net subscriber additions may fall by at least 2 million in March alone, and may dip further if the social isolation advisories are kept in place for a long duration. There is not vaccine yet to treat Covid-19, which has infected over 200,000 people worldwide and killed more than 8,000.
The person said the government will insist that unless the licence is renewed, the telco will have to pay its statutory dues for the circle in which its license for spectrum is expiring, by the expiry date.
Even if payments are spread over 20 years, the telco will have to pay over Rs 5,200 crore in annual payouts.
DoT added that it will not access call content, names etc of the subscribers. It termed the exercise as “an innovative way of identifying call drops and addressing the call drop issues. It will be appreciated that in the above exercise, there is no violation of privacy of any subscriber”.
Mobile phone companies, however, said the DoT should work with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and industry if it wants to resolve issues related to quality of services. The COAI had written a letter to the DoT in February, raising concerns over en masse call records demanded by some local service area units of the DoT.
With Monday's payments, total amount paid by Vodafone Idea to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will be about Rs 6800 crore, which will cover for its self assessed priciple portion of its dues.
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