17 Dec Government can’t take suo motu action to revive telecom sector: Piyush Goyal
Commerce and Industry minister Piyush Goyal Monday ruled out any suo motu support to the ailing telecom sector but said that the government is in continuous discussions with the industry.
“Government proactively or suo motu cannot take an action on this (AGR) but I assure you that we are in continuous dialogue,” Goyal said, and added that the revenue issue pertains to the top court and the industry.
The matter regarding AGR dues, according to Goyal, is a matter between the Supreme Court and the industry.
In October, the Supreme Court settled a decade-and-a-half long dispute between the incumbent telecom companies and the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on AGR, leaving telcos facing as much as Rs 1.47 lakh crore worth of dues to the government.
“Government has also acquired stress. RailTel will have to shell out some Rs 80 crores. BSNL too has a stress. I am told GAIL has a big problem. These will have to be sorted out in consultation with the Supreme Court,” Goyal said.
Public sector firms too have been impacted by the apex court’s decision. Several non telecom firms with telecom licenses such as Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), PowerGrid, Oil India and GAIL that together owe more than Rs 2 lakh crore as AGR dues are also expected to file a review petition since telecom is not their core business.
Following the top court’s verdict, ailing telecom carriers already sitting under a cumulative debt of more than Rs 7.5 lakh and plagued with falling revenue further stressed and demanded Centre’s immediate intervention.
The government on the back of recommendation from a group of secretaries, allowed a two-year moratorium on spectrum payments to incumbent telecom players.
Earlier, Vodafone Idea and met government officials, and according to Goyal, the executives demanded to defer the two years’ dues without affecting the net present value, which the Centre accepted.
Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel have a maximum exposure in the wake of AGR ruling, and have been asked to pay nearly Rs 53,000 crore and Rs 35,000 crore respectively.
“So I think when the government wants to help, it will also need the sector willing to take some proactive measures,” he said.
Goyal also said that the telecom sector is finally investing in technology to upgrade their systems and make them relevant to market demands which according to him, is a good sign, and added that it was something they should have done five years ago.
With upcoming spectrum sale including 3300 Mhz – 3600 Mhz frequency range for next generation networks is around the corner, the stressed sector is finding it hard to bid for new airwaves owing to high price.