Reliance Communications (RCom) made a partial payment of INR1.31 billion ($18.6 million) to Ericsson, a week after the Swedish vendor increased legal pressure over unpaid service charges and pushed for chairman Anil Ambani to be imprisoned.

In a statement, RCom said it had deposited the payment with the Supreme Court registry from operational funds it had available, while adding it has taken all required steps towards enabling a settlement.

It also confirmed it “remains fully committed” to make the payment to Ericsson from the proceeds of a spectrum asset sale to Reliance Jio.

The row between the two relates to unpaid service charges, worth $78.5 million, which Ericsson is due.

Row ramps
On 4 January, Ericsson filed a second contempt of court proceeding against Anil Ambani, head of RCom, over the company’s failure to settle the service charge.

Ericsson requested in a petition to the Supreme Court that Ambani be detained in civil prison and be barred from leaving the country.

RCom, which has all but exited the Indian mobile market, missed the original 30 September deadline to make the payment, but was then granted a reprieve until 15 December, a deadline which it also missed.

The company argued it was unable to make the payment in time because of delays by regulator Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in approving its spectrum sale to Reliance Jio, a deal first struck in December 2017.

RCom reached a deal to sell off the majority of its mobile assets to Reliance Jio after creditors, including Ericsson, took action against the company over huge debts.

However, while RCom has been able to sell off minority assets to Jio, the government is also pushing the company for outstanding charges related to spectrum acquisitions and has said it will not approve the Jio deal in full until those dues are paid.

The charges could total as much as INR29.5 billion.

As well as attempting to fend off court action from Ericsson, RCom also launched its own contempt suit against the DoT, claiming delays in approving its asset sale meant it has been unable to pay Ericsson.