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Bharti Airtel has paid Rs 8,312.4 crore to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), settling 5G spectrum dues ahead of schedule to free up cash for future investments, the company said on Wednesday.
The telecom service provider acquired 19,867 MHz of spectrum in various bands worth Rs 43,084 crore in the recent auction of 5G spectrum. This includes spectrum in 3.5 GHz, 26 GHz, and certain low and mid-bands. It plans to roll out commercial 5G services this month.
According to the DoT’s norms, companies have the option to pay dues in 20 equated annual installments. However, Airtel chose to pay dues for four year upfront.
Airtel said this upfront payment, coupled with the moratorium on spectrum dues and adjusted gross revenue (AGR)-related payments, will free up future cash flows and allow it to dedicate resources to single-mindedly concentrate on the 5G rollout.
Over the past year, Airtel has also cleared Rs 24,333.7 crore of its deferred spectrum liabilities much ahead of schedule.
In a statement, Gopal Vittal, managing director and chief executive officer of Bharti Airtel, said: “This upfront payment of 4 years allows us to drive 5G rollout in a concerted manner given our operating free cash flow. Airtel also has access to Rs 15,740.5 crore in capital from the rights issue, which is yet to be called. With the ideal spectrum bank, best technology, and adequate free cash flow, we are excited to bring to the country a world class 5G experience.”
Last week, at the post-result conference call, Vittal had said that the telecom firm plans to launch 5G services starting August, and will extend to a pan-India roll-out soon thereafter. “By March 2024, we believe we will be able to cover every town and key rural areas as well with 5G. In fact, detailed network roll-out plans for 5,000 towns in India are completely in place,” Vittal had said.
The company has tied up with Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung for network agreements.
“While our three-year capex plan will remain around the same levels, this rapid roll-out could see some advancing of capex on an in-year basis,” Vittal had said.
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First Published: Wed, August 17 2022. 12:35 IST