Indian telecoms group Bharti Airtel has reported a consolidated net loss of INR321.8 billion (USD4.3 billion) for the year to 31 March 2020, reversing profits of INR4.1 billion (2018-19 financial year), INR11.0 billion (2017-18) and INR38.0 billion (2016-17). The loss was attributed primarily to exceptional items totalling a negative impact of INR288.1 billion and comprising, amongst others, costs related to a Supreme Court ruling on licence fees and spectrum usage charge (SUC) dating back to 2005, alongside the accelerated depreciation of its 3G network equipment and rulings related to the one-time spectrum charge (OTSC). Consolidated total revenue, meanwhile, has begun to recover, growing to INR875.4 billion in the year under review, compared to INR807.8 billion in 2018-19 and INR826.4 billion (2017-18), but down from INR942.5 billion in its 2016-17 financial year. Showing a similar trajectory, EBITDA reached INR371.1 billion in 2019-20 after declining from INR356.2 billion in 2016-17 to INR304.5 billion and INR262.9 billion in the subsequent two years.
The operator noted that its 4G network now covers 95.4% of India’s population – including 7,907 census towns and 788,185 non-census towns and villages – via 503,883 total mobile broadband base stations, supported by 304,907km of fibre. The expansion of its 4G network was aided by its refarming of 900MHz and 2100MHz spectrum, with frequencies in the latter band made available by the deactivation of its 3G network in the majority of circles. Airtel went on to note that it is upgrading its 4G sites with 5G capabilities, and is working with vendors and application designers to conceptualise future 5G technology trials.