Debt-laden Vodafone Idea on Tuesday paid Rs 3,042.80 crore as spectrum dues to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for the airwaves it bought in 2014. The payment has come at a time when the company is on the brink of bankruptcy as it struggles to clear Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues.
Meanwhile, rival Bharti Airtel has paid Rs 1,950 crore to the telecom department towards its deferred spectrum dues, while Reliance Jio has made a payment of Rs 1,053 crore, news agency PTI quoted sources as saying.
The telcos have made this last lot of payments towards deferred spectrum liabilities, as the Union Cabinet had late last year approved a two year's moratorium on such spectrum dues.
Deferred spectrum dues are instalment payments that are made by telecom companies for airwaves bought in past auctions. This is separate from their AGR liabilities.
Last month, Vodafone Idea made a total payment of Rs 3,500 crore to the DoT as part payment of its AGR dues. The telco has pegged its AGR dues at Rs 23,000 crore against DoT's estimate of Rs 53,000 crore including Rs 24,729 crore in spectrum dues and Rs 28,309 crore in licence fees to the government.
Vodafone Idea, which has over 13,000 direct employees, also flagged concerns over the continuation of its business amid AGR crisis.
Meanwhile, rival Bharti Airtel has paid total dues of Rs 18,004 crore to the DoT. However, as per DoT estimates, the Sunil Bharti Mittal-led company owes Rs 35,586 crore to the telecom department. Last month, Bharti Airtel had paid Rs 8,004 crore towards AGR to the government. With this, the telecom firm has paid Rs 18,004 crore to the government in compliance with the Supreme Court judgement, the company had said in a statement.
So far Reliance Jio is the only telco which has paid its complete AGR dues of Rs 195 crore. Among others, Tata Teleservices has paid Rs 2,197 crore as per its self-assessment and has submitted details of the AGR calculations to the government.
As per DoT estimates, 15 entities owe the government Rs 1.47 lakh crore - Rs 92,642 crore in unpaid licence fee and another Rs 55,054 crore in outstanding spectrum usage charges. Of the estimated dues that include interest and penalty for late payments, Airtel and Vodafone Idea account for about 60 per cent.
In wake of deepening crisis in the telecom sector, the government is trying to strike a balance between complying with the Supreme Court order on AGR dues, ensuring health of the sector and safeguarding consumer interest.
The government has said it will conduct 'test check' for any one year (of telcos' dues) to examine variances between telecom companies' assessment and the government's own calculation of AGR liabilities.
By Chitranjan Kumar with PTI inputs