Months ahead of the “largest” ever spectrum sale, telecom major Bharti Airtel has said it does not see “great need” of mobile airwaves at this point.
The country’s top mobile operator, which was one of the major bidders in previous auctions, however, sees some impact on its revenue in the case of a price war with the impending launch of much-awaited Reliance Jio services.
“When you look at our current spectrum holding, we are in very solid position. We need spectrum to fill few gaps here and there. Broadly from spectrum perspective, we don’t see great need of spectrum at this point of time,” Bharti Airtel MD and CEO for India & South Asia Gopal Vittal said in an earnings call.
In the last spectrum auction conducted in March 2015, Airtel was the second biggest bidder after Idea Cellular with total commitment of around Rs 29,130 crore. The auction fetched government the highest ever revenue of Rs 1.1 lakh crore.
The government plans to conduct the largest ever spectrum auction in September in which 2300 megahertz of telecom frequencies worth Rs 5.66 lakh crore will be put on the sale.
The auction is expected to keep the balance sheet of already highly leveraged operators under pressure with the government fixing the base price of various spectrum bands, including the premium 700 Mhz band, at higher rates.
Government expects a revenue of about Rs 64,000 crore from spectrum auction this fiscal.
Besides buying airwaves through auction, Airtel has bought spectrum from various telecom operators like Aircel, Videocon, Augere which can be used for 4G services.
Commenting on expected data tariff war with the entry of Reliance Jio, Vittal said, “If rates come down then it will have impact on our revenue but we are determined not to let that happen.”
He said that the price of smartphone is primary barrier in getting more people to use data and second is awareness among masses on benefit of internet usage.
“If you have something which is dramatically useful then people are willing to pay for it,” Vittal said.
He ruled out getting into sale of mobile phones like Reliance Retail’s LYF but said that company will continue offering bundled data scheme with smartphones.
Vittal also said that the company has no plans as of now to deploy VoLTE which means voice calling service on 4G network as its legacy network is delivering good voice call quality. Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio is offering phone calls on VoLTE network which is very advance version of calling from internet.
Bharti Airtel posted around 31 per cent decline in consolidated net profit at Rs 1,462 crore for the first quarter of 2016-17 mainly due to high capital expenditure and loss from foreign exchange during the period.
The company saw support from consolidated mobile data revenues at Rs 4,640 crore which grew by 34.1 per cent on year-on-year basis.
Shares of the company closed marginally down at Rs 372.10 on BSE.