Audit firms to survey telcos’ service quality

Audit firms to survey telcos’ service quality

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, or Trai, will invite independent audit firms to undertake a survey of quality of service levels delivered by telcos such as Bharti Airtel Ltd and Reliance Communications Ltd, or RCom, in an attempt to address issues such as network congestion and dropped calls that plague customers.

While most of the recent surveys report more than 90% customer satisfaction and adherence with the quality norms laid down by Trai, “these studies are based on data provided by the operators", said a senior Trai official who did not wish to be named.

“We want to engage with an independent audit firm, which will release the grass-root reality in five months from now," he added.

Some analysts attribute poor quality of service to lack of adequate base transceiver stations, or BTSs.

“It appears that the emphasis is more on expanding coverage to newer areas rather than increasing capacity in existing service areas," said Ajay Srinivasan, analyst with Mumbai-based Crisil Research, a division of credit rating firm Crisil Ltd in a September note. “The number of base stations installed by Indian wireless operators is inadequate, especially as average minutes of use in India is 1.5 times the world average."

According to research firm IDC India, which released the results of its quality survey on 5 November, “While overall satisfaction of wireless users increased to 92.6% in 2007 from around 91% last year, customer care suffered due to increase in subscriber additions."

Even Trai’s quality of service study released in October, the point of interconnect, or POI congestion (a measure of traffic at choke-points) showed improvement despite addition of around 140 million subscribers in the last 12 months, “but telecom coverage still remains an issue", said the Trai official. “We also noticed that in states such as Bihar a lot still needs to be done for addressing congestion."

Analysts say that congestion levels are not captured accurately by Trai, “as the regulator only collects data on the number of POIs with congestion greater than benchmark level of 0.5% prescribed by Trai", added Srinivasan of Crisil in his September note. “Trai should seek data on the number of POIs to ascertain congestion levels across service providers."

For the quarter ended June, Indian operators such as Bharti Airtel and RCom reported 100% removal of call drop rates, compared with almost 98% a quarter ago.