The finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said at a press briefing after a Cabinet meeting: “In view of the current financial stress faced by major telecom service providers and in pursuant of the recommendations by the Committee of Secretaries (CoS), it is decided to defer receipts of spectrum auction instalments due from the TSPs (telecom service providers) for the years 2020-21 and 2021-2022.”
Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio would need to make the next spectrum payment to the government only in fiscal 2022-23.
Both companies have reported massive losses. Vodafone Idea posted a loss of Rs 51,000 crore in the July-September quarter with negative free cash flows. Airtel posted a quarterly loss of over Rs 23,000 crore.
Vodafone Idea and Airtel also need to pay a combined Rs 89,000 crore in licence fees, spectrum usage charge, penalties and interest to the government after a recent Supreme Court ruling expanded the definition of adjusted gross revenue (AGR). The AGR dues have to be paid in less than three months and the government has said that it was not currently considering any changes to this.