The mess in India's telecommunications sector has been highlighted by the report that Tata Teleservices has announced a Rs 275 billion loss in 2017-18. This loss was partly thanks to a write-down following the transfer of its wireless business to Bharti Airtel. Even so, this sets a new record for corporate India. The second-highest such loss was also in telecommunications and also in 2017-18 — Reliance Communications lost Rs 239 billion in the financial year that ended in March.
These two results underline the troubled state of the sector. Of course, the companies themselves should take part of the blame; the Tata group, for example, had exited a venture called Batata (Birla-AT&T and Tata), in which it had 48 per cent in the 1990s as it was enamoured of CDMA technology. Batata went on to become Idea Cellular, India’s third-biggest operator by revenue, while CDMA-based Tata Teleservices remained a laggard ever since inception.
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