The telecom industry’s subscriber base continued to decline month-on-month in May for the third month in a row due to outbreak of COVID-19, which led to issues like the movement of migrant labourers to their home towns and SIM card consolidation, India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra) said in its latest credit news digest released.
The industry-wide subscriber base declined by 5.6 million subscribers in May, though at a moderate rate as compared to the decline of 8.2 million subscribers seen in April.
Ind-Ra said a further movement in the subscriber base needs to be monitored over the medium term to identify whether the industry will see a recovery in subscriber base or this is a permanent impact.
As per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India data, the industry-wide revenue (excluding Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL)) remained almost stable in Q1 FY21.
While Reliance Jio Infocomm continues to be the largest player by revenue and subscriber market share and Bharti Airtel has been able to largely maintain its market share. Vodafone Idea is constantly losing its market share for the past two years to these two telcos.
In May, Vodafone Idea’s revenue market share slumped significantly in its two key circles Delhi and Mumbai. Ind-Ra said whether the company continues to be a niche player or reverts to being a pan-India player remains to be seen over next nine to 12 months.
In the final hearing related to adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues on September 1, the Supreme Court has provided certainty related to the amount of AGR dues payable and the timelines for such payment.
While the apex court has reinstated that the amount determined by the Department of Telecom will be final for payment by the telcos, it has provided some relaxation for payment of the said dues.
The AGR dues are required to be paid by telcos in a staggered manner over 10 years from April 1, 2021 while an upfront payment of 10 per cent of the total dues is required by March 31, 2021.
Ind-Ra said the relaxation in timelines will provide a liquidity cushion to Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. RJio has already paid the dues.