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Bharti isn’t on its own as Idea spirals

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Idea Cellular has reported its results for the quarter ending June 30 and Jio has left its mark here as well as revenues decline 13.9% year-on-year.

The upstart doesn’t seem to have impacted Idea as violently as it did its long-time rival Bharti Airtel, but a 13.9% year-on-year decline in revenues is a bitter pill to swallow. Cash profit, as it is described in the press release, dipped a heart-breaking 61.9% year-on-year, as the Indian market continues to be a dangerous one to operate in.

The blame has predictably fallen on the entry of Jio, who’s disruptive pricing plans have caused quite a stir. Although the company is slowly migrating to what would be considered a more convention business model, the damage has been done, and it might be irreversible according to Idea.

“The upheaval in the Indian wireless industry continued in Q1FY18, despite the new entrant slowly migrating from ‘Free Services’ to ‘Paid Services’ but with heavily discounted unlimited voice and data pricing plans,” the company said in a statement. “Amidst this market aggression, existing operators including Idea also introduced similar competitive unlimited price plans, which is likely to result in decline of industry revenues, although the impact of the same is expected to be more pronounced on non-4G operators.”

Essentially, Idea is saying that while it is not in the worst position possible, don’t expect revenues to increase dramatically at any point in the near future. The new pricing strategies will lower revenues as a total across the telco space in India, and this will not change. The fundamental foundations of the telco industry in the country are shaking, just get used to it.

Although total revenues have taken a dip, there is a slight saving grace in the fact that the volume growth in both mobile voice and data segments will bring in extra revenues. This is not going to compensate for the overall loss in revenues (demonstrated by the top-line declines), but it is a bit of good news to hold onto.

Sequential quarterly voice minutes grew by a 8.4% to 250.7 billion minutes, while the voice realisation rate fell by 5.7% to 24.4 paisa/min. Mobile data volume witnessed growth of 99.1% on sequential quarterly basis as Idea’s large Pan India network, primarily its Wireless Broadband Network, carried 252.8 billion Mega Bytes. This is almost double the previous quarter, however revenues saw a decline of 52.9%, reaching to as low as 5.4 paisa/MB.

Idea’s total mobile data user base declined to 38.1 million in June 2017 from 42.2 million the last quarter, though the number of 4G subscribers more than doubled from 3.1 million to 6.5 million.

While it is hardly glorious news, Idea does seem to be remaining hopeful. The market will stabilise eventually, it just has to negotiate the short-term hurdles. It believes the market will consolidate into five operators, which isn’t a bad number considering the size and potential of the Indian telco market. The merger with Vodafone will provide some security, it just needs to hold it breath for the near-term future.

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