Government must rationalise telecom levies: Sunil Mittal
Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal has said the government must look at rationalising the levies on the telecom sector, and close long-standing legal disputes that are a big drag on performance of operators. Mittal’s comments, as reflected in the company’s annual report for 2019-20, can be read in the context of the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) issue.India, said Mittal, still has the world’s lowest tariffs, and that is hampering the balance sheets of the operators.The government’s “urgent interventions” will ensure that there is a viable industry with 3+1 structure, which is essential for serving the digital aspirations of a billion plus Indians, Mittal said.“The industry requires more support. While it is clear that the worst may be behind for India’s telecom industry, we are yet to emerge from the woods. India still has some of the lowest data tariffs globally and the industry is barely able to cover the cost of capital,” he said. “It requires much more support to repair the deep damage to its finances and make it viable for telecom operators to invest in future technologies,” he further said.“Though the recent tariff increase has provided some cushion to the industry, we are still way below the levels to make the industry viable,” Mittal said.The company is under immense pressure, especially after the Supreme Court on July 20 rejected the pleas of telecom operators, including Airtel, on reassessing the payment of AGR dues. The company till now has paid ₹18,004 crore towards the AGR dues ouit of the total dues of ₹43,980 crore.Meanwhile, the company’s large investments towards building future-ready networks, data centres, and its sharp focus on quality customers is beginning to reap dividends, Mittal said.“Your company moved forward strongly this year on its strategy of customer delight and solid market execution by offering new products, content services and seamless experience across all touch points,”” Mittal said in a message to the shareholders.The company is also celebrating 25 years of operations this year, and Mittal said these years have seen their fair share of challenges and achievements, all of which have been inspiring and fulfilling at the same time.Airtel has over 280 million mobile customers, and services over 18 million homes, 2,000 large corporates and over a million small businesses. More than 150 million of these customers are now engaged digitally across its Airtel Thanks, Wynk and Xstream apps.