Mobile industry lobby group the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has argued that the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) formula model enforced by the Supreme Court’s October 2019 ruling should be applied to all licences, claiming that state-owned operators should not be given special treatment. The Economic Times quotes COAI head Rajan Mathews as saying: ‘The question is are you a telecom licensee and if you are then the terms of the licence apply. The court has looked at the terms of the licence, so that same principle then should be applied on every licensed agreement, including for relevant PSUs [public sector undertakings].’ As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, the apex court’s ruling included demands for around INR1.47 trillion (USD20.7 billion) in unpaid dues, penalties and interest from the operators, whilst the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is also expected to pursue payment of a further INR2.4 trillion from licence holders that are not telecom operators, many of which are PSUs.
The COAI’s claim follows recent statements from government officials suggesting that the AGR ruling would not be applied to non-telcos; these were in contradiction to earlier announcements from other senior officials, which had asserted that the AGR decision would be applied across the board. The Supreme Court has yet to clarify its decision, and the government has yet to confirm how it will apply the ruling to PSUs.