The inter-ministerial group looking into telecom companies’ financial stress has finalised its report, outlining recommendations for providing relief to the debt-ridden sector.
The finalisation of the report comes after a three-month long deliberation by the high-powered committee.
The inter-ministerial group or IMG is learnt to have favoured increasing the timeline for deferred spectrum payment for telcos, andshifting from PLR to MCLR for interest and penalty payments with regard to licence fee and spectrum usage charges.
However, it has not suggested any cut in licence fee or Spectrum Usage Charges levy, given that the initial signs of recovery are visible in the sector, an IMG member said.
On the issue ofremoving 50 per cent spectrum cap – within a particular band – for mergers and acquisitions, the high-powered panel is of the view that the matter can be looked into by telecom regulatorTrai.
Yesterday ,DoT Secretary Aruna Sundararajan had said the recommendations of the IMG will be placed before Telecom Commission whose next meeting is slated for September 8.
The proposals will thereafter require Cabinet nod.
“The norms were framed with Cabinet approval so any change will also need to be placed before the Cabinet,” said the official who did not wish to be named.
The IMG, in its report running into 80-90 pages, has deliberately not put any figure to the total relief flowing from the proposals, the source added.
Some of the other suggestionspertain to ease of doing business, the source pointed out.
One of its significant recommendations pertains togiving more time to telecom companies to pay for the spectrum they buy.
Currently, a portion of spectrum auction amount is taken as upfront payment by theDepartment of Telecom(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 (plus 2 year moratorium) instead of 10 years for such deferred spectrum payment.
The IMG, comprising senior officials from ministries of finance and communications has, over the last three months, deliberated on various steps that can be taken to address thefinancial woes of the industry.
The industry isreeling under Rs 4.6 lakh crore of cumulative debt and facing severe pressure on revenue and profitability.
In June, the IMG held extensive discussions with all telecom players and large banks on the industry’s financial difficulties.
Established telecom operators have been blaming competition triggered by the entry ofReliance Jio, for their operational difficulties.
In fact, Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao, had recently written to Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha expressing hope that the IMG willrecommend “a reduction in theinterest rates for deferred spectrum payments to 6.25 per cent 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 August 22,had also rued about the deterioratingfinancial position over the last 9-12 months due to “unchecked price competition with services offered below cost for considerableperiods of time”.