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DoT hugely disappoints on collections with absence of 5G auction and AGR overdues

The government expects to net around Rs 40,000 crore from telecom sector this fiscal, less than a third of the budget estimate of Rs 1.33 lakh crore, mainly due to the absence of 5G airwaves in next auctions and limited payments towards past AGR dues.

In the absence of premium 5G airwaves from the upcoming March sale and likely limited appetite, the telecommunications department (DoT) expects a maximum of around Rs 10,000 crore as upfront payments this fiscal, which signals overall proceeds of around Rs 40,000 crore under the communications head, said government officials familiar with the matter.

Further, payments towards the past adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues are likely to be a modest Rs 1,000 crore. “The initial (revenue) estimates of Rs 1.3 lakh crore had taken a 5G spectrum auction and AGR dues into account,” a senior official told ET. “But it does not look like the telcos are paying anymore AGR dues till this fiscal gets over.”

Telcos are expected to make an upfront payment of only around Rs 10,000 crore in the upcoming auction where spectrum worth Rs 3.92 lakh crore will be sold at base price, the official said. The government estimates Rs 20,000-22,000 crore at best to flow in by way of licence fees and spectrum usage charges (SUC) this fiscal.

It also expects to pocket around Rs 5,000 crore as miscellaneous charges, making up an estimated Rs 38,000-40,000 crore revenue receipts from communication services this fiscal. A key reason behind the slippage in the government’s telecom revenue estimates in the likely shortfall in AGR collections this fiscal as the telcos, including Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Tata Teleservices (TTSL) have paid the larger instalments last year.

For instance, the DoT will only net a Rs 1,000 crore in FY21from Vodafone Idea towards AGR dues payments as the telco had paid Rs 6,854 in three tranches in the previous fiscal. Airtel had also shelled out Rs 18,004 crore towards AGR dues last February while TTSL had paid Rs 4,197 in two tranches in February/March, 2020. Accordingly, these payments won’t reflect in DoT’s AGR collections for FY21. Business Journal

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