AGR verdict brings certainty; DoT should now focus on ease of biz, industry profitability: BIF
The AGR verdict will allow companies to move ahead with certainty on business plans, and the DoT must now focus on steps to make the sector profitable and attractive to investors through ease of business measures as well as lowering of "onerous" duties and levies, industry think tank Broadband India Forum (BIF) has said.PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 13-09-2020 10:39 IST | Created: 13-09-2020 10:26 IST
The AGR verdict will allow companies to move ahead with certainty on business plans, and the DoT must now focus on steps to make the sector profitable and attractive to investors through the ease of business measures as well as lowering of "onerous" duties and levies, industry think tank Broadband India Forum (BIF) has said. BIF has also urged the Department of Telecom (DoT) to make quick decisions on a spate of recommendations that have already been forwarded by the sector regulator including major ones like public Wi-Fi networks for broadband proliferation.
BIF said any delay in decision-making on TRAI's recommendations comes at an "enormous economic cost" at a time when the country has set its sights on massive digital transformation. The Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) verdict has brought in finality to the statutory dues issue, and the industry can now move on with business plans, BIF President T V Ramachandran told PTI.
"Government must see how they can make the industry more profitable and attractive to investors. Ultimately, if you want investments to come into the country, you have to make the business case attractive," Ramachandran added. The immediate focus must be on ease of doing telecom business, and reduction of "onerous duties and levies", which are amongst the highest, he said.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court allowed telecom operators to pay 10 percent of total AGR-related dues this year, and the rest of the payments in 10 installments starting from the next fiscal year. Ramachandran further said many of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommendations that have already been forwarded to DoT but remain in limbo, now need to be pushed actively, while the provisions of already-notified National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) must be operationalized and implemented, at the earliest.
TRAI recommendations that could be very useful once implemented, include reduction in license fee, USO (Universal Service Obligation) levy and spectrum usage charges; the proliferation of broadband through public Wi-Fi networks; enhancement of scope of Infrastructure Providers Category-I (IP-I) registration, said BIF. Besides, recommendations on captive VSAT CUG (Very Small Aperture Terminal - closed users group) policy issues, suggestions on ease of doing telecom business; spectrum usage charges(SUC), and presumptive-AGR for internet providers and commercial VSAT service providers, would also be helpful, it said.
Other key recommendations pertain to making ICT (Information and Communications Technology) accessible for persons with disabilities; next-generation Public Protection and Disaster Relief communication networks; spectrum, roaming, and service quality-related requirements in machine-to-machine communications; definition of revenue base (AGR) for the reckoning of the licence fee and SUC, and reduction in the rate of GST imposed on the telecom sector.