Fitch Ratings expects telecom operators to raise tariffs in 2023, given the focus on profitability by the service providers.
The rating agency categorically said Vodafone Idea, the third-largest telco, needs to increase tariffs as its EBITDA generation is insufficient to meet finance costs and to invest sufficiently in capital expenditure. The last time the Indian telecom operators raised tariffs was in late 2021.
“We have only one market on an improving outlook – India – compared with two (India and Malaysia) in 2022. Only one market – Sri Lanka – is on a deteriorating outlook. Consolidation is likely to continue in most markets as weaker participants face the choice whether to be acquired or decline,” it said in a report.
Notably, Indian telecom operators continue to have one of the lowest monthly average revenue per user (USD 2.5) and the highest monthly data usage (20 GB) in the world.
Further, it said market leaders Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel will continue to consolidate market share as they will garner 80-85 per cent of the revenue of private telecom operators during 2023-2024, in comparison to 81 per cent in 2022.
Bharti Airtel, it said, will retain its 35 per cent active subscriber market share, while Vodafone Idea will continue to lose market share given its extremely weak financial position.
On AGR deferment, the Fitch report said the government’s decision to defer the amount of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) and spectrum dues for four years, the prospective exclusion of non-telecom revenue from the definition of AGR, and the abolition of spectrum usage charges in recent spectrum auctions will boost telecom operators’ cash flow.