Vittal said “there is clearly a situation of serious financial stress in the industry” which has seen one of the players (Voda Idea) telling the government that it may not be able to pay its dues coming up in March 2022. “We hope that the government does something to provide some relief to the industry.”
Justifying recent decisions to hike certain tariffs, Vittal said that consumer realisations are “abysmally low”. However, he indicated that the company may not initiate a broader tariff revision as it would blunt its competitiveness.
On the SC decision to dismiss review application by telecom companies for recalculation of AGR-related dues, Vittal said, while Airtel is “disappointed” with the outcome, the company has provisioned for the payout and paid over Rs 18,000 crore, covering its obligations for the first few years.
“On the next steps relating to any review petition, we will be guided by legal advice and no decision has been taken on this yet,” Vittal said at Airtel’s Q1 earnings call. Responding to an analyst query on how Airtel perceives industry structure over next one-two years, and whether the company is prepared for a two-player market, Vittal said the Indian market can easily accommodate three private players.
“I think just from national perspective, it would be appropriate to see an industry structure where three players not just survive, but thrive and of course the government player is always there,” he said. “I feel as a country we do need three players … it is a large enough country with 1.3 billion people, which can easily accommodate three (private) players in this market.”