Data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Friday show that for the first time, in 2017 the industry showed a decline on all parameters compared to 2016.
With the operators’ gross revenue and adjusted gross revenue (AGR) declining, even the government’s revenue by way of licence fee and spectrum usage charge fell for the first time in a calendar year.
The gross revenue of the operators fell by 8.56 per cent to Rs 2.55 lakh crore in CY17. Similarly, the AGR fell 18.87 per cent to Rs 1.6 lakh crore. Since the operators pay licence fee and spectrum usage charge to the government as a percentage (8 per cent and 5 per cent, respectively) of their AGR, government revenue also declined during the year. Total collections for the government from licence fee came down by 18.78 per cent to Rs 12,976 crore, while revenue from spectrum usage charges fell 32.81 per cent to Rs 5,089 crore.
Since the decline in revenue and AGR happened despite the rise in industry’s subscriber base, clearly below-cost tariff is the cause. The average revenue per user (Arpu) during CY17 declined to Rs 81 against Rs 119 in 2016.
During the year, the AGR of only Reliance Jio — which started its commercial services in September 2016, leading to a major tariff war within the sector — registered growth, while all the incumbents like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular registered a decline.
The AGR of Bharti Airtel declined 24.46 per cent to Rs 36,922 crore; Vodafone’s by 24.14 per cent to Rs 26,308 crore; and Idea Cellular’s by 23.17 per cent to Rs 22,616 crore. Jio recorded a 2,563.9 per cent jump in AGR to Rs 7,466 crore at the end of 2017 from a negative Rs 303 crore at the end of 2016.