Indian mobile provider Vodafone Idea has reported turnover of INR110.9 billion (USD1.55 billion) for the three months ended 31 December 2019, up from INR108.4 billion in the preceding quarter (the operator notes that as it adopted the accounting standard Ind AS 116 from 1 April 2020, reported figures are not comparable with earlier quarters). EBITDA for the period improved by 0.7% to INR34.2 billion, but comprehensive net loss for the period reached INR64.5 billion. In the preceding quarter, Vodafone Idea had booked a net loss of INR509.0 billion, due primarily to the inclusion of an estimated liability of around INR441.5 billion in backdated spectrum and licence fees related to the October 2019 Supreme Court ruling regarding the definition of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR).
On a more positive note, the company reported that it had completed its network integration programme in 86% of districts, with the total number of integrated circles reaching 17 (of 22) in January 2020. The integration has significantly improved its network coverage and capacity, the cellco adds, claiming that the programme – combined with the deployment of Massive MIMO technology and the refarming of 900MHz spectrum for LTE – has almost doubled its data capacity compared to September 2018, leading to a improvements in data transfer speeds and customer experience. Further, the integration has allowed the cellco to remove surplus equipment from around 58,000 sites and exit roughly 17,000 low utilisation sites by end-December 2019.
Vodafone Idea counted a total of 304 million mobile subscribers, down from 311 million three months earlier and 387.2 million in December 2018. Tariff increases earlier this year led to an improvement in ARPU to INR109, from INR107 in the preceding quarter and INR89 in the year-ago period. Similarly, 4G subscriptions grew to 104.2 million from 95.9 million in September 2019 and 75.3 million in December 2018 but the operator noted that it had begun including VoLTE subscribers from the September 2019 period onwards muddying the water for comparison with earlier periods.
The cellco was amongst the worst hit by the Supreme Court’s AGR decision, receiving a demand for INR530 billion. Following the apex court’s decision last week to refuse any relief to the telcos affected by the order, Vodafone Idea told the court that it was assessing how much it could pay towards the bill and would do so ‘in the next few days’. The Economic Times writes that this figure is expected to be around INR350 billion.