Telecom sector needs ‘long overdue’ support: Mittal

‘Industry structure, investor returns hang on govt. action’

Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal said the industry required ‘long overdue’ support to maintain its current ‘3+1’ industry structure, adding that unsustainable pricing and low returns had extracted a toll on the telecom sector.

Mr. Mittal’s statement comes amid concerns over the survival of Vodafone Idea — one of the three private players — without any support from the government.

“As our sector’s role in the economy becomes more pervasive, our challenges loom larger. Unsustainable pricing and low returns in a highly capital-intensive environment, coupled with legacy legal issues, have extracted their toll,” Mr. Mittal said in the company’s annual report.

He added that the industry required government support for players to earn respectable returns on their investments. “I am hopeful that the government and the regulators will step in to ensure there is adequate balance in the industry and it remains a viable place for continued investments,” he said.

He also said the company was well positioned to lead in the introduction of emerging technologies such as 5G due to its large investments in networks and spectrum. “We aim to collaborate with domestic and global companies to make India a hub for 5G technology development,” he said.

He also noted that the company’s India mobile business is now at a lifetime-high revenue market share along with industry-leading metrics such as in average revenue per user and data usage. He pointed out that the non-mobile businesses in India had also gathered significant momentum.

“As the Indian economy digitises further, there are large opportunities ahead in areas such as data centres, submarine cable deployment, cloud services and cybersecurity. We will look to scale up our investments in these areas in the coming fiscal,” he said.

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