Vodafone Idea (Vi), one of India’s major telecom operators, has taken a significant step to address its financial challenges by making a payment of ₹1,700 crore to the Indian government. This payment covers dues related to the acquisition of spectrum in the 5G spectrum auction and previously acquired spectrum assets. The company made this payment on September 16, 2023, as indicated in a regulatory filing.
This financial move comes on the heels of Vi’s recent settlement of pending dues, including license fees and spectrum usage charges, amounting to approximately ₹450 crore for the March quarter of the fiscal year 2022-23. These payments are part of Vi’s efforts to manage its financial obligations and enhance its financial stability.
The financial challenges faced by Vodafone Idea are considerable. The annual instalment for the company, primarily related to spectrum acquisition, stands at approximately ₹16,000 crore. This is notably higher than the company’s current annualized EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization), which stands at ₹10,000 crore. This stark disparity highlights the financial strain that Vi has been grappling with.
In comparison, Bharti Airtel, another major player in the Indian telecom industry, faces more favorable financial dynamics. Bharti Airtel’s annual instalments for its India operations are around ₹9,000 crore, which is more in line with its higher annualized EBITDA of ₹23,000 crore, according to a report by Deutsche Bank. This contrast underscores the financial disparities and challenges within the Indian telecom sector.
To address these challenges and provide support to telecom companies like Vodafone Idea, the Indian government approved a relief package in 2021. This package included a four-year moratorium on paying statutory dues, permission to share scarce airwaves, a revised definition of revenue subject to levies, and the allowance of 100 percent foreign investment through the automatic route. The primary objective of this relief package was to bolster the financial stability of telecom operators and foster growth and development within the Indian telecom sector.