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A boom in remote work propelled a 58% year-on-year jump in data consumption at Bharti Airtel Ltd in the September quarter helping India’s second-largest telco post record consolidated revenues though it plunged to a net loss for the sixth straight quarter.

“Our focus on building the most aspirational brand in Indian telecom to win quality customers is delivering results. Our data consumption grew by 58% y-o-y which reflects strong engagement of customers on our network," Airtel’s chief executive Gopal Vittal said on Tuesday.

During the quarter, Airtel recorded a sequential growth of 14.4 million in 4G user base at 152.7 million, up 48% from a year ago, as more customers turned to better data services.

“The company continues to garner a strong share of the 4G net adds (additions) in the market. 4G data customers increased 48.1% to 152.7 million compared to the previous year, while traffic increased to 77.3 PB (petabyte)/day vs 48.9 PB/day in the corresponding quarter last year," Airtel said in a statement. The telco now has 440 million users in 16 countries.

Airtel’s average revenue per user (Arpu) rose to 162 from 128 a year ago, and 157 in the June quarter. This led to the company clocking its highest consolidated quarterly revenue of 25,785 crore, up 22% from a year ago. It, however, posted a consolidated net loss of 763 crore due to higher expenses, including network operating costs, licence fees and spectrum usage charges, and higher finance cost.

The company had a consolidated net loss of 23,045 crore in Q2 of FY20. A Bloomberg poll of 10 analysts had estimated a profit of 121.60 crore for the September quarter.

While total expenses rose 15% from a year ago to 14,143 crore, net finance cost was up 28% y-o-y at 3,7,26 crore, led by an increase in charges such as additional regulatory liabilities and decrease in investment income, the company said.

Consolidated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (Ebitda) rose to 11,848 crore from 8,936 crore a year ago. Ebitda margin was at 46%, representing an improvement of 366 basis points y-o-y.

“We stay committed to improving the profitability of the business. Our continued focus on Arpu improvement and cost optimization led to Ebitda margin expansion by over 158 bps in the quarter sequentially," Vittal said.

Airtel reported strong growth across segments—mobile, home and digital services. While revenue from mobile services in India was up 26% y-o-y, that of homes services grew 7.3%.

Total capex for the quarter increased to 6,791 crore from 3,901 crore a year ago.

The telco said it has already paid more than 10% of its total adjusted gross revenue (AGR)-related dues as ordered by the apex court on 1 September. According to DoT estimates, Airtel owes 43,980 crore in AGR dues. It has paid 18,004 crore. “The group has represented to DoT that it has paid over 10% of dues as demanded by DoT and will ensure ongoing compliance with the court’s orders," Airtel said.

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