Though the telecom sector has not recovered fully yet, positive swings seem to be emerging. The adjusted gross revenue (AGR) of the industry rose marginally to Rs 35,932 crore in the January-March quarter. The number for the same period last year stood at Rs 35,697 crore. On a sequential basis, though, the AGR declined a bit, as in the December quarter, the amount was Rs 36,054 crore.
Licence fees also declined to Rs 2,888 crore for the March 2019 quarter compared with Rs 2,932 crore in the corresponding period last year. Spectrum usage charges rose marginally to Rs 1,055 crore for the March 2019 period against Rs 1,051 crore in March 2018.
Surprisingly, it was public-sector firms, BSNL and MTNL, which have beaten even Reliance Jio in terms of increase in their access services AGR for the reported period. BSNL's AGR grew the highest at 16.44% to Rs 2031.07 crore in the March quarter from Rs 1,744.37 crore in the preceding December quarter.
MTNL followed with 9.25% growth in AGR to Rs 466.74 crore for the reported period against Rs 427.24 crore in the preceding period.
The March quarter is usually good for the state-run companies as revenues from enterprise segment come during the period.
Among the private players, it was only Reliance Jio, which saw its access services AGR rise by 3.76% to Rs 9,838.91 crore compared with Rs 9,482.31 crore in the preceding December quarter.
All other incumbents saw a decline in their respective AGRs. Bharti Airtel's AGR declined to Rs 5,920.22 crore for the March period compared with Rs 6,439.65 crore in the preceding quarter while Vodafone Idea's AGR fell to Rs 7,133.40 crore from Rs 7,223.72 crore.
The monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) for access services fell marginally to Rs 72.49 from Rs 72.82 in the preceding quarter. Access services or mobile services contributed 72.62% of the total AGR of telecom services.
India Ratings and Research has said that though there has been stabilisation of mobile services revenues in Q4FY19, recovery of the telecom sector will take time as credit profiles of operators will remain under pressure in the medium term due to high competitive intensity, elevated debt levels and continued reliance on capital infusion for debt servicing and capex.
The agency further said revenue recovery may continue going ahead, albeit at a slower pace, as the proportion of high ARPU subscribers in the data and broadband (3G+4G) categories continues to be low at 40-44% and 30%, respectively, of overall subscriber base.
After falling steadily over the last 2.5 years, data tariffs (expressed in terms of GB per user per month) rose 11%-17% during October 2018-February 2019, and has been stable since then.