The telecom sector’s gross revenue fell by around 8.56% in 2017 touching ₹2.55 lakh crore, as compared with ₹2.79 lakh crore in 2016, data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority in India shows. This reflects a larger trend of falling revenues for the sector, as also marked in the yearly and quarterly financial results released by Airtel and Idea. Consolidated revenues for Airtel in Q4FY18 fell by 5.4% year-on-year to Rs 19,634 crore. For Idea, revenue slumped to Rs 6,137.3 crore in Q4, down from Rs 6,505 crore in Q3.
In line with this, the spectrum use fee and license fee received by the government also fell in the time period. The license fee was down by 18.78% to ₹12.9 thousand crores while spectrum usage charge was down to ₹5 thousand crores, recording a fall of 32.8%.
Notably, even as the industry’s revenue fell due to a price war, the lower tariff rates played a role in the growth of subscribers. Telephone subscribers increased from 1,151.78 million at the end of December 2016 to 1,190.67 million at the end of December 2017, a growth of 3.38%. Mobile subscribers at the end of 2017 were 1,167.44 million.
Affordable data rates and bundle plans ensured that total internet subscribers rose to 445.96 million, a change over the previous year of 13.91%. The concentration of internet users, however, was largely in urban areas, where 76.76 people had internet out of a 100, while rural users were only 14.89 out of a hundred.
As a large part of the rural population is not covered, the growth rate for subscription was higher in rural India as compared to urban. Rural telephone subscription increased from 468.64 million people in 2016 to 502.42 million by 2017-end, an annual growth of 7.21%. In urban regions, subscription rose from 683.14 million in 2016 to 688.25 million in 2017, a growth of 0.75%.
Industry-wide monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) for mobility services in 2017 for GSM was ₹81 while that for CDMA was ₹120. For data, monthly ARPU in GSM was ₹27.50 and for CDMA was ₹64.46.
According to the figures released by TRAI, the adjusted growth revenue increased by Reliance Jio even as all other players faced losses. Jio’s AGR jumped to ₹7,466 crore in 2017, a steep rise from a recorded loss of ₹ 303 crores in 2016.