Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea Limited (VIL) are staring at potential penalties worth Rs 500 million per violation if they fail to meet their minimum network rollout obligations amid the lockdown as the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has not extended the compliance timelines beyond May 31, 2020.

Earlier, the telcos had requested the DoT for a six-to-nine-month extension in the timeline for completing their rollout targets. The compliance timelines are linked to the spectrum band assigned to the telcos and the date of allocation.

In a letter to the DoT, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said that delays in import of network equipment, which are stuck at various ports across the globe, have resulted in critical delays in planned rollout and deployments. Further, the association added that meeting the network rollout compliance timelines is a big challenge due to strict restrictions imposed by the state governments and various municipal authorities. It would be unfair if the telecom service providers are to suffer from any of these penalties for a situation that can at best be described as force majeure.

The COAI urged DoT to extend the deadlines by six to nine months so that relief is afforded for forthcoming compliance timelines.