Russian-backed cellco Sistema Shyam TeleServices (SSTL), which operates under the MTS India brand, has booked a 31% year-on-year increase in annual revenues to INR16.19 billion (USD297.06 million) for the twelve months to 31 December 2012, despite uncertainty over the provider’s continued operation in the country amidst a number of regulatory and legal disputes. Annual net losses saw a 16% year-on-year improvement to INR29.82 billion, following the implementation of new measures to control spending and retain subscribers. None-voice revenues contributed 36.0% to the company’s total income in 2012, compared to 30.1% a year earlier and 16.6% in 2010. With 5.3 million active data subscribers at the end of 2012, including 1.78 million data card users, SSTL has projected active data customers to increase to 9.7 million by end-2013.
SSTL has had a troubling year on the regulatory front. Following the cancellation of its operating licences by the Supreme Court in February 2012, the cellco sought to overturn the decision, threatening to seek international arbitration on the matter and leveraging its ties to the Russian state to apply some extra diplomatic pressure. By the time of the reauction of concessions in November, SSTL had not yet received a definitive answer to its appeal to the apex court. Confident that its appeal would succeed, SSTL opted not to take part in the frequency auction, only to have the Supreme Court reject its case. Luckily for the cellco, the first sale was poorly attended, and it was able to win back spectrum in eight circles in March 2013 when the local authorities offered up the airwaves for a second time.