In­dia to con­sider re­lief mea­sures for tele­coms

Muscat Daily - - BUSINESS -

Mum­bai, In­dia – A panel of se­nior In­dian bu­reau­crats will dis­cuss the need for mea­sures to mit­i­gate fi­nan­cial stress of na­tion’s wire­less car­ri­ers, which have been bat­tling high debt lev­els and a bruis­ing price war.

A com­mit­tee of sec­re­taries will look into the de­mands made by tele­com com­pa­nies to de­fer the tranches of air­wave auc­tion pay­ments that are due by March 2021 and March 2022, a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial told re­porters while de­clin­ing to be iden­ti­fied cit­ing rules. The panel will also ex­am­ine com­pa­nies’ de­mand for re­duc­ing the spec­trum us­age levies and the Uni­ver­sal Ser­vice Obli­ga­tion Fund charge, which is cur­rently levied at 5 per cent.

In­dia’s tele­com sec­tor has shrunk from a dozen wire­less op­er­a­tors a cou­ple of years back to just three pri­vate sec­tor firms, af­ter Re­liance Jio In­fo­comm Ltd de­buted in 2016 with free calls and cheap data. The ensuing price war forced ri­vals to merge, quit or go bank­rupt. The two sur­viv­ing car­ri­ers are also strug­gling, with Voda­fone Idea Ltd post­ing 11 straight quar­ters of net losses and Bharti Air­tel Ltd slip­ping into its first-ever loss in the June quar­ter.

Just when the price com­pe­ti­tion showed signs of eas­ing, the older car­ri­ers were hit by a court order last week ask­ing them fork out bil­lions to the gov­ern­ment in a two-decade old le­gal dis­pute.

The court rul­ing led to Bharti de­lay­ing its earn­ings an­nounce­ment say­ing it needed more time to as­sess this ‘ad­verse out­come’ and seek help from the Tele­com Min­istry.

Be­sides the mea­sures sug­gested by this gov­ern­ment panel, the In­dian tele­com reg­u­la­tor will also ex­am­ine the case for min­i­mum charge for voice and data ser­vices to help boost op­er­a­tors’ rev­enues, this of­fi­cial said.

The data prices, which have crashed to R8 per GB, is likely the low­est in the world while the av­er­age rev­enue per user per month has de­clined from R174 in the year ended March 2015 to R113 by March 2019, the of­fi­cial said.

(Bloomberg)

Peo­ple talk on their mo­bile phones in Mum­bai, In­dia

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