Cellcos push for last-minute extension to AGR deadline

20 Jan 2020

Indian cellcos Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, along with defunct operator Tata Teleservices, have filed an appeal with the Supreme Court for a longer timeframe within which to pay their Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR)-related dues, estimated to total around INR1.47 trillion (USD20.7 billion), the Economic Times writes. The development follows the apex court’s rejection of a plea from the trio last week that had sought a limited review of the original AGR ruling in October last year. The October ruling defined how AGR – upon which various licence fees are based – is calculated, widening its scope to include revenue from non-core sources. The initial decision gave affected parties just three months to pay the fees, giving operators until 23 January 2020 to raise the funds: the cellcos are now understood to be asking for the opportunity to negotiate with the government over the timeframe for payment.

TeleGeography notes that the request is likely to fall on deaf ears, however, as the Supreme Court has indicated that it is keen to draw a line under the matter. Describing the AGR definition as ‘crystal clear’, the court stated last week that: ‘No litigant can be permitted to reap fruits on such inconsistent and untenable stands and litigate for decades in several rounds’.

In a related development, meanwhile the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is reportedly assessing whether the deadline of 23 January should be applied to all licensees, or only those that were party to the court case that resulted in the October ruling. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, the ruling has been applied to all licensees regardless of the type of concession, including many non-telcos, such as state-owned utility firms Power Grid Corporation, GAIL India and Oil India.