Telcos urge DoT to address financial stress

Telcos urge DoT to address financial stress

KOLKATA: Phone companies on Monday called on the government to urgently address the financial plight of the beleaguered telecom industry by reducing levies such as license fees and spectrum usage charge (SUC).
At a Monday meeting with telecom secretary Anshu Prakash and senior members of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), the government officials assured the industry that additional issues like request for dynamic IP addresses, additional backhaul spectrum, greater relaxation in filing compliance requirements due to the extension of the nationwide lockdown period, among others would all be reviewed and decisions taken speedily to help the industry.
The telecom industry body has sought “a reduction in licence fee, SUC as well as modifications in the GST (goods & services tax) where spectrum debt payments, licence fee and SUC payments would not be classified as services, and hence not attract GST,” Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), said Monday in a late evening media statement Monday. Prakash, he said, had referred the matter to DoT’s member (finance).
The COAI represents Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.
At present,telcos annually pay 8% of their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) as licence fees, and around 4% towards SUC to the government.
The COAI had recently approached the finance ministry, seeking soft loans against GST input credit to address the sector’s immediate liquidity crunch, along with cuts in SUC and LF payouts to 3% of AGR. It had also sought GST exemption on license fees, SUC and payouts for airwaves acquired in auctions.
Mathews said, COAI has also sought service tax exemption on licence fees/SUC payable by telcos.
The DoT, he said, had assured the telcos that their requests for dynamic IP addresses, additional backhaul spectrum, greater relaxation in filing compliance requirements due to extension of the quarantine period, clearance of pending network Equipment Type Approvals (ETA), SIM activation and movement of essential goods among others would be reviewed and considered expeditiously.
Close coordination between the DoT and the telcos amid the nationwide lockdown, he said, had sharply reduced the number of faulty base stations, fibre cuts and has also ensured continuous power availability across tower sites to ensure uninterrupted telecom connectivity amid the surge in data consumption during the pandemic.
Mathews said the number of “faulty” BTSs were down from around 800 before the quarantine to nearly 290 as a result of this close co-operation. The number of optical fiber cuts, he said, had been reduced from around 100 a day pre-quarantine to around 19 during the past 15 days of the lockdown.

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