Airtel awaiting clarity from DoT on AGR dues

Our Bureau. New Delhi | Updated on October 28, 2020

Will refrain bidding for 5G in upcoming auctions: MD

Bharti Airtel (Airtel), on Wednesday, said the company is awaiting clarity from the Department of Communications (DoT) on the payment of adjusted gross revenue (AGR).

According to the DoT, telecom operators, including Airtel and Vodafone Idea, which have pending AGR dues, will have to pay 10 per cent of the total liability by March 31, irrespective of the part-payments made by them.

Spectrum auctions

On the upcoming spectrum auctions, the company said it will refrain from bidding for 5G spectrum, but will look for some other radiowaves below 1,000 Megahertz frequencies to improve network inside buildings and in rural areas.

“We are hearing from the DoT that there may be an auction early next year...anywhere between January and March timeframe. If in that auction the reserve price of 5G is as high as it is...for many reasons, including the devices being what they are, the devices and ecosystem being nascent and the fact that spectrum price where they are, we will not buy at these prices. We will not be able to afford it,” said Gopal Vittal, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, India and South Asia, at an earnings call.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had recommended a price of ₹492 crore per megahertz for spectrum in the 3,300-3,600Mhz band, which is considered suitable for 5G services at present.

The Sunil Mittal-owned company had earlier also said that it would not be able to bid for this spectrum at the TRAI-recommended price as companies will need to shell out around ₹50,000 crore to acquire a decent quantity of frequencies in this band.

2G services

Vittal also pointed out that 5G ecosystem in any case will take at least two years to come to India. He said the company was also evaluating whether it should bid for 1,800Mhz band, popularly known as 2G spectrum, because the use of 2G services is coming down every quarter.

Responding to a query on 5G devices if Airtel was also looking at a strategy like Reliance Jio, which is working on low-cost 5G smartphones (₹2,500 to ₹3,000), Vittal said the company is studying the space closely.

“We have a team looking at this and we haven’t quite decided on what our approach is...what is really important for us is that we continue to get traction on converting 2G to 4G customers. So we are looking at this space carefully,” said Vittal.

He added that the company has started developing 4G small cells in Bengaluru as part of Open RAN (radio access network), and is exploring to do the same for 5G technology.

Published on October 28, 2020

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