Vodafone Idea, India’s largest mobile service provider by subscribers, has announced its results for its first full quarter since completing the merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular in August 2018, registering revenue of INR117.6 billion (USD1.65 billion) for the three months to end-December 2018. The figure represents a 2.2% decline quarter-on-quarter, but the cellco notes that this is an improvement from the 7.1% fall recorded in the preceding quarter, although year-on-year and q-o-q comparisons are complicated somewhat by the recent merger. Operating expenses were lower due to the realisation of merger synergies, boosting EBITDA by 16.3% q-o-q to INR11.4 billion, but the company nevertheless reported a net loss for the period of INR50.0 billion.
The cellco reported that its operational strategy of reducing the number of low ARPU ‘incoming only’ customers had begun to yield positive results, leading to monthly revenue growth in December 2018 and January 2019. Vodafone Idea’s total mobile subscriber base fell to 387.2 million from 422.3 million in September 2018, but ARPU remained stable at INR89 per month, compared to INR88 in the Jul-Sep period, and INR92 in the Apr-Jun quarter. The cellco also counted a 9.5 million net increase in 4G subscriptions, bringing its total to 75.3 million, attributing the development to its 4G network expansion. Vodafone Idea added 11,123 4G sites during the period under review, increasing its population coverage to 64% at end-December, compared to less than 50% for each of its separate predecessor brands in August 2018.
Indeed, regarding the integration of the two companies, the operator reported that it has now harmonised pricing plans across the two brands, whilst the integration of distribution channels, customer service operations and retail footprints is expected to be completed shortly. The cellco has also been adjusting its network, exiting 5,400 low-utilisation sites, optimising equipment on 21,000 and re-farming spectrum in the 2100MHz band from 3G to 4G in some areas.