A series of relief measures has been proposed for India’s telecom sector but there have also been calls for the revocation of bankrupt operators’ spectrum licences.
According to Indian media reports, the Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has suggested ways of lowering the overall licence fee as well as lowering the goods and service tax (GST) rate on mobile services. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is also pursuing the immediate refund of around $4.3 billion blocked or delayed GST credits owed to telcos.
At the same time, however, reports indicate that the government may seek to revoke the spectrum rights of bankrupt provider Aircel for non-payment of dues, a tricky problem for Aircel, which is apparently relying on the sale of its spectrum licences to repay its creditors.
There’s more bad news for Indian operators with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)’s indication, again via Indian media, that it may be unable to comply with a recent request from the Digital Communications Commission (DCC) to reconsider the value of fines to be imposed on Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel. They operators were fined for failing to provide sufficient points of interconnection to Reliance Jio Infocomm when it launched in September 2016.
The DCC has asked the TRAI to reconsider the value of the penalty to take into account the sector’s financial stress. However, determining the level of financial stress on the industry is, according to a TRAI official, not something the TRAI has the power to do.