The Indian telecom industry demonstrated a positive trend in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2023, with an impressive 2.53 per cent sequential growth in adjusted gross revenue (AGR), according to the latest data released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Monday.
The driving force behind this growth was attributed to the residual impact of tariff hikes initiated by private carriers in November 2021. Among the prominent players in the industry, Reliance Jio emerged as the leader in sequential AGR gains during the quarter ending March. The company’s quarterly AGR, generated from licensed services, recorded a solid 1.7 per cent growth to reach Rs 22,985 crore. Following closely, Bharti Airtel’s AGR rose by 1.15 per cent on a quarterly basis, reaching Rs 18,500 crore. However, the scenario was less favorable for Vodafone Idea (Vi), as its AGR in the March quarter of FY23 declined by 1.61 per cent sequentially, hitting Rs 7,210.63 crore. This dip underscored Vi’s ongoing struggle to effectively compete, which has also led to significant customer losses to its larger competitors.
The overall AGR of the telecom industry witnessed a noteworthy rise of 2.53 per cent in the fiscal fourth quarter, amounting to Rs 64,494 crore. This surge in AGR had a direct correlation with increased license fee collections for the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
On the other hand, the collections from the spectrum usage charge (SUC) observed a decline once again, primarily due to the government’s decision to cease charging the statutory fee on airwaves acquired from the 5G auction held last July. In specific numbers, the license fee collection surged by 2.53 per cent sequentially to Rs 5,159 crore, while SUC collections experienced a 6.94 per cent decline on a quarterly basis, reaching Rs 755 crore during the March quarter.
The regulatory changes have significantly impacted operator payouts towards the SUC. Since the removal of the 3 per cent floor on SUC over a year ago and the government’s choice not to impose SUC on 5G spectrum sales, the operators’ payouts have plummeted to under 1 per cent of AGR from the previous range of 3-4 per cent.
The sectoral minutes of consumption also demonstrated an upward trajectory, with the all-India average minutes of usage (MoU) per subscriber per month for wireless services increasing by 2.97 per cent sequentially to reach 946 during the quarter ending March.
Access services continued to play a substantial role in the industry, contributing 80.06 per cent of the total telecom services’ AGR in the fiscal fourth quarter of FY23. The monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) from wireless services also registered a positive growth of over 0.83 per cent on a quarterly basis, settling at Rs 142.32.
Additionally, Trai’s data highlighted the expansion of the country’s internet user base, which grew by 1.77 per cent sequentially, reaching a total of 881.25 million users during the March quarter. Among them, 847.31 million users accessed the internet via wireless services, while 33.94 million used wired connections.