Customers may face mobile tariff hikes as telecom operators are likely to raise prices of voice and data services. The increase in tariffs would have a direct impact on mobile data and calling prices. Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Mittal said tariffs need to go up amid "tremendous stress" in the telecom sector, and Airtel will not hesitate to raise prices, but it will not do so unilaterally.
He was speaking to reporters at a virtual event of OneWeb, a satellite communications company led by Bharti Global.
Mittal said 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".
"We will not hesitate to do it, but it can't be done unilaterally," Mittal said.
"How long can you keep on killing each other, the point is when you have a return on capital, even by the best operator, at low single-digit and most of them struggling....I am not saying ...raising tariffs always sounds bad...just bring it back to where it was...enjoy 15 times (data) consumption, but at least come back to old tariffs," he said.
The top boss of Bharti Group clarified that this would not mean a massive increase in tariff across the spectrum, as low-income users will pay ₹75-100.
"It is not as if it will become more expensive for the lower end. But middle to high end, instead of paying ₹250-300 maybe can give ₹350-450...we are talking about getting past ₹200-mark which will still be lower than six years back, and people can continue to consume 15 GB," he said.
He admitted 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 noted.
"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 telecom department...all...focus on this issue and ensure India's digital dream remains intact through the provision of at least three operators," Mittal noted.
The comments by the telecom czar came at a time when Airtel's rival Vodafone Idea has approached the government for a one-year moratorium on payment of spectrum instalment of over ₹8,200 crore - due in April 2022.
Cash-strapped VIL has told the telecom department that while it is working on raising new funding for the last six months, "investors are not willing to invest in the company because they believe that unless there is a significant improvement in consumer tariffs, the health of the industry will not recover and they will incur a loss on their investment".ALSO READ: Air travel may become costlier as jet fuel prices soar