Sunil Mittal, India’s telecom czar, said on Thursday that the industry is under huge pressure and that the government must assure that India’s digital vision is maintained by actually providing three operators.
Mittal admitted that telecom prices need to be raised and that Airtel would “not hesitate” to do so, but added that it could not be done “unilaterally.”
“To say telecom industry is in a bit of trouble is actually an understatement. It is in a tremendous amount of stress. I hope the Government, the authorities, and Telecom Department focus on this issue and ensure India’s digital dream remains intact through the provision of at least three operators,” Bharti Airtel Chairman Mittal said.
He was speaking to the media at a OneWeb virtual event hosted by Bharti Global and the UK government.
Mittal said Airtel had raised funds timely and adequately, through equity and bonds, and asserted that the company is strongly positioned to serve the market in coming years.
“We never went into the woods at all. We are strong a company, many a time we are underestimated in our resolve,” Mittal added.
He conceded that the last 5-6 years had been brutal and pointed out that the results are for all to see.
“Ten operators gone out of business, two merged together…gasping for breath right now,” he said.
The industry needs to be healthy for embarking on 5G services, and to deliver on India’s digital dream, he said.
“We will not hesitate to do that,” Mittal said when asked if the firm would consider raising tariffs unilaterally.
“How long can you keep on killing each other, the point is when you have a return on capital, even by the best operator, at low single-digit and most of them struggling….I am not saying…raising tariffs always sounds bad…just bring it back to where it was…enjoy 15 times consumption, but at least come back to old the tariffs,” he said.