Bharti Airtel subscriber base thinning as customers move to JioPhone

Bharti Airtel has said the company came under pressure with the launch of Reliance Jio’s feature phones, as its low-end customers moved to the rival network.

The company’s Chief Executive Officer Gopal Vittal said it was impacted with the advent of JioPhone as Airtel’s feature phone customers made the shift.

“There was pressure,” Vittal said in a post-earnings call with analysts.

During the festive season of Dussehra and Diwali, Jio made its phone available at a special price of Rs 699, against the earlier price of Rs 1,500.

Bharti Airtel’s Chief Financial Officer Badal Bagri said the company’s focus on quality customers and prudent tariff tweaks helped improve the average revenue per user (ARPU) in the quarter ended September 30.

Bharti Airtel on Tuesday reported 28 per cent jump in its ARPU at Rs 128 for the quarter ended September 30, driven mainly by the increased data customer base.

The company had posted an ARPU of Rs 100 in the corresponding period of the last financial year (2018-19). However, on a sequential basis, the company’s ARPU remained flat — from Rs 129 in June 2019.

Data usage per customer rose 42.2 per cent year-on-year, to 13,116 megabytes.

ARPU is the total revenue of the operator divided by the number of users.

The company’s revenue from mobile services was Rs 10,811.8 crore in the three months ended September 30, up 7.4 per cent from Rs 10,070.4 crore in the same period, last financial year. In the June quarter this year, Airtel’s India mobile revenue stood at Rs 10,724 crore.

The company’s subscriber base grew to 279.43 million in the September quarter, from 276.81 million in the preceding quarter.

Bharti Airtel on Tuesday said it has deferred announcing its financial results for the September quarter from October 29 to November 14, as the company awaits further clarity on the recent Supreme Court (SC) verdict. It is also approaching the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to seek clarity on the total amount involved.

Last week, the SC upheld the central government’s position on including revenue from non-telecommunication business in calculating the annual adjusted gross revenue of telecom companies, a share of which is paid as licence and spectrum fee to the exchequer.

Following the order, Airtel, Vodafone Idea and other telecom operators may have to pay the government a whopping Rs 1.42 trillion within three months.

According to the DoT’s calculations, Bharti Airtel faces a liability of around Rs 42,000 crore after including licence fees and spectrum usage charges, while Vodafone Idea may have to pay about Rs 40,000 crore. Jio may have to pay around Rs 14 crore.

The remaining liability is with state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam and some of the shut/bankrupt companies.

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