Declining mobile revenue in India’s telecoms industry led to a significant drop in the licence fees the government collected from mobile operators in the opening quarter of the year, the telecom regulator said.

Mobile operators’ licence payments fell 9 per cent sequentially in Q1 to INR33.6 billion ($522 million), The Economic Times (ET) reported.

According to a report from Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), operators’ adjusted gross revenue in Q1 dropped 15 per cent year-on-year and 11 per cent sequentially to INR408 billion.

Mobile operators pay 8 per cent of their adjusted gross revenue as a licence fee and another 3 per cent as a spectrum usage charge.

Operators’ balance sheets have been significantly impacted by a price war sparked by Reliance Jio after it launched 4G service in September 2016 and introduced a series of free data offers.

Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular posted heavy losses in the January to March quarter.

TRAI figures showed monthly ARPU in the period declined nearly 21 per cent from the previous quarter to INR83, ET said.

In June, the country’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) asked the finance ministry to reduce the estimated non-tax revenue to be collected from telecoms operators for the current fiscal year by more than a third due to widespread discounting and the industry’s heavy debt.

DoT forecasts revenue collected from operators in the fiscal year ending 31 March 2018 to drop 37 per cent to INR295 billion, with revenue from licence fees nearly halving to INR92.6 billion and funds from spectrum usage charges falling 35 per cent to INR170 billion.