Telecom major Bharti Airtel, which has lined up investments worth Rs 25,000 crore on expansion this fiscal, is looking to continue with its bullish capex plans even in the next year, its chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said today.
“We are spending more money on capex. More networks are being built. I think Gopal (Vittal) mentioned yesterday Rs 25,000 crore so this is up from Rs 20,000 crore. This will be the highest single year of investments. Thereafter, next year will also be big but not as big as this year,” Mittal told CNBC TV18.
The company has raised investment mainly to expand 4G networks.
“My own view is when you are down to three operators, you will see lot more active sharing, fibre sharing, submarine so you start to optimise your investments. Market stabilisation in next 12-18 months would also result in calming of intensity of capex between 3 or 4 operators,” Mittal said.
A number of telecom operators have either merged or are in process of merging with large operators. Some of the companies have exited from telecom companies by selling their spectrum to Bharti Airtel.
Two large operators Idea Cellular and Vodafone are also in process of merging their telecom business. Industry experts believe that there will be three private telecom operators in future — Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Idea-Vodafone merged entity and one state-run telecom firm BSNL.
Mittal expressed disappointment with reduction in mobile call connection charges to 6 paise effective October 1 from 14 paise charged earlier.
“We are obviously disappointed with the IUC regime that has come in. We have gone to court. We expect some judicial intervention. We hope that to happen. Licence fee, spectrum usage charges need to be rationalised in the environment where you are auctioning spectrum at very very high prices,” Mittal said.
Mobile companies charged 14 paise a minute for allowing a domestic call from a rival operator to terminate on their network before October 1. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, the body which determines it, has made it 6 paise per minute from October 1, 2017.
An Airtel representative during company’s earning call on Wednesday said that revenues will be further hit to the tune of 4 per cent of its consolidated EBITDA or around Rs 300 crore in the ongoing quarter due to reduction in mobile call connection charges.
Talking about Bharti Infratel, mobile tower arm of Bharti Airtel, proposal to acquire country’s largest telecom infrastructure firm Indus Towers, Mittal said that consolidation is happening in telecom infrastructure sector and in the long run, three firms in the segment are expected to operate.
“Consolidation is happening. Indus Infratel is a company without a doubt. There is one more tower company that will emerge. My own personal view is ATC has made a big bet. That should be second tower company. BSNL has mostly its own towers. You will have stabilisation in infrastructure as well,” Mittal said.