Airtel, Vodafone Idea allege 'miscalculation' of AGR dues

Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have complained to India's highest court about government estimates of what they owe in payments under India's adjusted gross revenue (AGR) rules.

Airtel has filed a petition seeking clarification, modification or recall of "mistaken orders," claiming there were arithmetical errors in the government's calculations. Authorities say it owes 439.8 billion Indian rupees ($5.9 billion) in dues, while Airtel reckons its fee is just INR130.04 billion ($1.7 billion). So far, it has paid INR180 billion ($2.4 billion).

Vodafone Idea has similarly asked the court to modify orders under which it must pay INR584 billion ($7.9 billion) in ten equal instalments by March 31, 2031. Its own calculations put the amount at INR215.33 ($2.9 billion). Vodafone has already paid INR78.54 billion ($1.07 billion). In its complaint, it listed various government errors, including double counting of revenue items and not including the earlier payments made by the company.

The AGR judgment put the company's survival in doubt last year. Vodafone Idea is currently trying to raise funds of INR250 billion ($2.4 billion) to improve its financial position and support for network expansion and modernization.

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In a previous order relating to AGR payments, the top court forbade the operators from self-assessing their dues and instructed them to rely on Department of Telecommunications (DoT) calculations.

Tata Teleservices is likely to follow Airtel and Vodafone Idea in filing a petition in the Supreme Court regarding AGR payments. It has paid INR41.97 billion ($572.19 million) of the INR167.98 billion ($2.2 billion) the government says it owes.

Both Airtel and Vodafone Idea are struggling to make a profit. Clarity over the pending dues is crucial for both the operators since 4G auctions are imminent and a 5G sale is likely to be held later this year.

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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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