Airtel’s Sunil Mittal says: ‘Telecom industry in trouble’ is an understatement

Telecom czar Sunil Mittal on Thursday said the industry is under tremendous stress and hoped the government will ensure that India’s digital dream remains intact through the provision of at least three operators.

Mittal acknowledged that telecom tariffs need to go up and that Airtel would “not hesitate” in this regard, but was quick to add that it cannot be done” unilaterally”.

“To say telecom industry is in a bit of trouble is actually an understatement. It is in a tremendous amount of stress. I hope the Government, the authorities, and Telecomm Department focus on this issue and ensure India’s digital dream remains intact through the provision of at least three operations,” Bharti Airtel chairman Mittal said.

He was speaking to reporters at a virtual event of OneWeb, a satellite communication company led by Bharti Global and the UK government.

Mittal said Bharti Airtel had raised funds and adequately, through equity and bonds, and asserted that the company is strongly positioned to serve the market in coming years.

“We never went into the woods at all. We are strong a company, many a time we are underestimated in our resolve,” Mittal added.

He conceded that the last 5-6 years had been brutal and pointed out that the results are for all to see.

“Ten operators gone out of business, two merged together…gasping for breath right now,” he said.

The industry needs to be healthy for embarking on 5G services and to deliver on India’s digital dream he said.

Asked if the company will look at raising tariffs, Mittal said, “We will not hesitate to do it, but it can’t be done unilaterally”.