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Ministerial panel on telecom to submit report by tomorrow: DoT official

LiveMint logoLiveMint 30-08-2017 PTI

New Delhi: The inter-ministerial group (IMG) looking into telcos’ financial stress is expected to submit its report by Thursday, a top government official said on Wednesday.

The Telecom Commission will consider the panel’s report in its meeting on 8 September, Department of Telecom (DoT) secretary Aruna Sundararajan said. The IMG was constituted earlier this year to suggest measures to mitigate financial difficulties of telecom sector, which is reeling under Rs4.6 trillion of cumulative debt and is facing severe pressure on revenue and profitability.

“I am sure the IMG is proposing some relief ... We expect their report to be submitted today (Wednesday) or tomorrow (Thursday),” Sundararajan told reporters on the sidelines of an event by the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) in New Delhi.

Once submitted, the IMG report will be placed before the Telecom Commission for its consideration, the Telecom secretary said further. “The Telecom Commission will take it up in coming days...The next meeting of the Telecom Commission is on 8 September,” she added.

The inter-ministerial group is learnt to be favouring increasing the timeline for deferred spectrum payment for telcos, and shifting from PLR to MCLR for interest and penalty payments with regard to licence fee and spectrum usage charges.

Currently, a portion of spectrum auction amount is taken as upfront payment by the DoT and the balance after a two-year moratorium is paid out every year in 10 instalments. There are indications that the telcos could be given 16 years instead of 10 years for such deferred spectrum payment.

The IMG, which comprises senior officials from ministries of finance and communications, has over the last three months, been deliberating on various steps that can be taken to address the financial woes of the industry. In June, it had held extensive discussions with all telecom players and large banks on the industry’s financial stress.

Established telecom operators have been flagging pressure on profitability and revenue, and have blamed competition intensified by the entry of Reliance Jio for their woes. Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao, has recently written to the Telecom minister Manoj Sinha expressing hope that IMG will recommend “a reduction in the interest rates for deferred spectrum payments to 6.25% in line with the improved macroeconomic trends and an increase in the period of payment for spectrum”.

The Vodafone top honcho, in the letter dated 22 August, had also rued the deteriorating financial position over the last 9-12 months due to “unchecked price competition with services offered below cost for considerable periods of time”.

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