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Idea Cellular Q4-FY12 Concall Live: 2.6M Active 3G Subs, Rs 91 3G ARPU, 315mbits Per Month

We’re a little late for the Idea Cellular Q4-FY12 conferencecall, but we’re updating relevant bits live. You can dial in too, here are the details. For our report on the results go here. Live updates:

2:44 pm: 15.3% marketshare on VLR basis, a lead of 3.4% over industry subscriber numbers. There are future indications of an improvement in idea subscriber marketshare. less than 60% of the Indian subscriber base is active on mobile. 300-400 million are likely to join the 2G wireless business over the next 3-4 years. Idea added 6.4 million VLR subscribers in the quarter.

2:49 pm: Refarming will have a major disruptive impact if 900 Mhz band is abandoned. Refarming is anti-consumer. Who will bear the cost of refarming? How does the nation benefit form refarming? How does competition improve with refarming? ARPU has improved by Rs 5 to Rs 160

2:50 pm: Minutes of usage: Voice minutes growth exploded by 9.1%, and the daily voice minutes exceeds 1.4 billion a day. Inspite of high minutes growth, the company met all TRAI QoS norms, with lowest call drop rates, below TRAI thresholds. Most of the network expansion is with the latest equipment.

2:53 pm: Mobile Number Portability: over 33.4 million customers have ported, and MNP remains an important parameter. We are number 1 MNP operator, with over 2.9 million net port-in.

2:54 pm: Internet is limited to few elite educated classes, but we committed to develop the broadband market through applications and power of ideas campaigns. Idea is supplementing the efforts of handset manufactuers by distributing Idea branded handsets. Our strategy remains to ensure the availability of handsets.

2:56pm: 3G subscribers: We’ve provisioned services for most of the subscribers in 3G coverage area with 3G handsets. In terms of active subscribers – on 31st March 2.6 million active 3G subscribers, consuming 315 mbits per month, and incremental 3G data ARPU of Rs 91. Voice, VAS and SMS is separately accounted.

3:00pm: No comments on TRAI 2G spectrum auctions yet, since any comment would be hypothetical. “We are getting geared to take part in the auction, and we have clear views on the quantum of spectrum and the entry price. Our view is that it should be closer to the views of the industry, to protect our customer, shareholder and employees. We are a part of COAI, and COAI has clearly articulated the views, that the recommendations are inconsistent and regressive. We reject the recommendations of TRAI and hope that the government should do so too.”

3:09pm: The battle between telecom operators should be seen on a circlewise basis, not a nationwide basis, and it’s unfair to say that the competition is only between Idea, Vodafone and Airtel.

3:13pm: In the month of March, because of certain types of vouchers that we were allowed to operate, we had to withdraw due to TRAI regulations. However, by the middle of the third week of April,  we’ll see the impact of an increase in service processing fee to Rs 3 from Rs 2.

3:19pm: Mostly financial accounting related questions being answered.

3:20pm: Legal recourse on spectrum refarming? “This discussion will be in the public forum, and legal recourse is the last recourse. What is important is that there are currently 500 million customers, and most of them own a 2G handset, and 900MHz services are spread to nearly 90% of the population. Who will bear the cost of refarming, ensure that there is no degradation in the quality of service. It’s not a question about regulator, operator or a few policy makers. we would rather take it across society, rather than limiting itself to a operator.”

“It appears that the spectrum cost is going up, and given the fact that India has a low per capita, and it is the responsibility of the government and the private operator to bring about inclusive growth. We have to balance the need in terms of the price to the customer to the cost that is being incurred. The vision is on larger growth from rural subscribers, and those who have never had an opportunity to join the telecom revolution. We have to balance the pricing in the country, and cost has to be kept under control.”

3:24pm:”Revenue marketshare is a battle of execution, service, network quality, brands, and these will continue to happen, and it’s not possible to publicly comment on how RMS will move.”

3:28pm: Our company, around 2008 was a pure voice company, and we’ve expanded into multiple segments. we’ve frontloaded investments in 3g, and added ISP, ILD businesses. We are going to continue our growth trajectory and continue to invest in all segments, but there is no need for large chunks of investment in 3G.

In data market, we are making investment in making the relevance of wireless broadband among the mass market. Our core market doesn’t stop with the elite, and we’re addressing the mass market retail segment, with no broadband for centuries and decades. This is a long drawn battle, and we’re making significant investment in marketing and distribution, and low priced handsets. There is competition in the dongle side of the business, but that is not our core business.

Voice ARPM has fallen down. There is no doubt, that in the month of March, consumer regulations came in, but we’re hoping for some recovery. If we were to leave that event out, then the average is the same. In the long run, it is in the interest of all players to operate at the earlier level.

On regulatory scenario, we dont want to comment any more (in response to a question on the disconnect between industry expectations and regulatory recommendations).

3:40pm: Our strategy for new circles always has a calibrated approach, with CAPEX allocation at a particular place, and a certain percentage of cash generated is to be invested. We will continue to expand coverage in the new circles.

As we are following a calibrated approach, restricting losses.

3:46pm: We’re not fully convinced on the data, the consumer demand is slower than what we had initially expected.

3:50pm: Every quarter, the battle on trade commissions remains high.

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