The government is examining proposals from three telecom companies keen to opt for converting interest on deferred spectrum and adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues into equity, Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said in the Rajya Sabha on Friday.
The minister — responding during Question Hour to a query if the government has any equity in private telecom firm Vodafone — said a one-time option was given to telecom companies to either pay upfront the interest on AGR dues or convert it in the form of equity in lieu of that as part of the structural reforms announced in September last year.
The one-time option was given to telecom companies to ensure the government’s revenue is not compromised, he said.
The minister said, “Three companies have exercised that option. We have received their letters and we are examining them.” The option was also given because the telecom sector has been going through a tough phase for many years, due to which, the balance sheet of many companies is not good today despite heavy growth in the telecom sector, he added.
When BJP leader K J Alphons complained in the House that he was facing poor phone connectivity in the heart of the capital city and even in his home state Kerala, the minister asked him to register a complaint before TRAI which has set up a cell to look into the matter.
Responding to BJD member Sujeet Kumar’s request to expedite Bharatnet project in KVK (Krishi Vighyan Kendras) districts of Odisha, the minister said the central government has identified 7,000 new telecom sites across the country, especially in areas which are not connected.
About 3,933 sites are identified for Odisha, he said and asked the BJD leader to approach the state government to quickly identify the sites for installation of towers.
The minister also said that the Bharatnet project is implemented by state governments and the implementation is not all “satisfied” in Odisha.