Vodafone Idea, in a letter to Department of Telecom (DoT) and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), has sought at least 7-8 times hike in mobile data tariffs and sought call charges at 6 paise per minute to be able to pay its AGR (Adjusted Gross Revenue) dues. Among other demands, the telco has suggested raising mobile internet prices from current Rs 4-5 per gigabyte to Rs 35 per GB and fixing of minimum connection charges at Rs 50 from April.
Notably, the call for tariff hike has come despite the telco increasing charges by up to 50 per cent in December. Vodafone Idea believes it can only earn revenue at the same level as 2016-17 if the government fixes floor price for calls and data charges.
The DoT's highest decision-making body, Digital Communications Commission (DCC), is meeting today to decide if the telcos, including Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, should at all be given any relief. Vodafone Idea's letter also said it'll take 15 years for the company to pay pending statutory AGR dues worth Rs 53,000 crore. The company has also asked the government to provide Rs 8,000 crore worth GST (Goods and Services Tax) refund in licence fees and spectrum usage charges.
Pegging its AGR dues at Rs 23,000 crore against DoT's estimate of Rs 53,000 crore, the telco wants the DoT to reduce licence fee to 3 per cent from current 8 per cent. The company has also asked the Centre to reduce spectrum usage charges from 3-5 per cent to 1 per cent. So far, Vodafone Idea has paid only Rs 3,500 crore worth of pending dues.
Industry lobby body COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) has also written a letter to DoT asking to set-off GST credits lying with the government, reduce the licence fee and SUC, implement the floor pricing immediately, and restore the confidence of banking sector in telecom companies.
The telco, which employees over 13,000 direct employees, has also said the continuous pressure to pay the amount could render 10,000 people jobless and create chaos among its 300 million subscribers in India. Telecom companies owe Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the DoT, including Rs 92,600 crore as licence fee and Rs 55,100 crore as spectrum usage charges. Bharti Airtel owes Rs 35,600 crore, while Vodafone Idea has to pay Rs 53,000 crore. Bharti Airtel and Tata Group have also made AGR payments worth Rs 10,000 crore and Rs 2,197 crore to the DOT, respectively.