Bharti Airtel said Wednesday it has paid Rs 8,312.4 crore upfront to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) towards dues for the spectrum it had acquired in the recently concluded 5G auctions. The telco said it paid dues for four years upfront, as it would help future cash flows and its 5G rollout.
The DoT also got Rs 7,864.7 crore in upfront payment from Reliance Jio, Rs 1,679.98 crore from Vodafone Idea (Vi), and Rs 18.94 crore from Adani Data Networks, an Adani Group arm. As a result, it has received a total of Rs 17,876 crore.
Airtel plans to launch 5G services this month. Over the last year, it has also cleared Rs 24,333.7 crore of deferred spectrum liabilities, the telco said.
“The company believes that this upfront payment coupled with the moratorium on spectrum dues and AGR (adjusted gross revenue) related payments for four years will free up future cash flows and allow Airtel to dedicate resources to single-mindedly concentrate on the 5G roll out,” a statement by Airtel said. It has tied up with Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung for network agreements.
According to DoT’s rules for receiving payments from the spectrum auctions, companies have the option to pay dues in 20 equated annual instalments. However, telecom operators are also free to pay the entire amount or part of it upfront, with the minimum duration for upfront payment being two years. On August 5, the Department had issued demand notices to all the four companies to pay up their spectrum payments in 10 days, with Wednesday being the final day.
India’s biggest ever spectrum auction for 5G airwaves had ended on August 1 with bids upwards of Rs 1.5 lakh crore coming in after seven days of bidding spread over 40 rounds, belying initial expectations that the auction process would be wrapped up in under three days.
Jio emerged as the largest spender in the 5G spectrum auction, acquiring almost half of all the airwaves sold for more than Rs 88,000 crore, and was also the only one to have acquired spectrum in the premium 700 MHz band. Airtel, shelled out Rs 43,084 crore to acquire a total of 19.8 GHz of spectrum in the 900 MHz, 1,800 MHz, 2,100 MHz, 3,300 MHz and 26 GHz bands. Vi spent Rs 18,799 crore and bid for certain medium and high frequency bands. Adani Data Networks acquired spectrum only in the 26 GHz band and spent Rs 212 crore.
In an earnings call last week, Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO, Bharti Airtel had said that the company plans to launch 5G services starting August and, by 2024, is expecting to cover large parts of the country, including in rural areas. The company has prepared detailed network roll-out plans for 5,000 towns in India, he said.