The telecom operators have written to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) seeking extension to provide bank guarantees (BGs).
The revised BGs were to be submitted by March 23, 2020 but due to curtailed operations of banks citing COVID-19 outbreak, operators have sought extension.
As per industry sources, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had written to the DoT on March 20, 2020 seeking relaxation in providing BGs.
As per the industry body, all audits, including customer acquisition forms (CAF), electromagnetic field (EMF) licence and security should be to be cancelled till stabilisation of the situation. Further, it suggested that timelines for minimum roll-out obligations should be extended for at least six months and states should be instructed to give expedite permission for putting up towers to strengthen network and not to seal towers for frivolous reasons.
COAI has also requested the DoT that no disconnection of points of interconnect by Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL)/ Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL) should be allowed in the period. The telcos have some long-standing issues with BSNL and MTNL and sometimes these firms resort to disconnection and invocation of BGs.
Besides, the telcos have also sought support for various other things due to the ongoing crisis. To this end, the COAI has urged the DoT to issue directions to state governments to consider telecom under the essential services. This will ensure a continuity in the work and commute of the employees amid lockdowns.
Telcos have to renew their BGs, primarily for deferred spectrum payments, and since the government has announced a two-year moratorium for spectrum payments, the incremental amount of many BGs need to be changed.