Home >industry >telecom >Govt to meet telco chiefs on monitoring dropped calls

New Delhi: The department of telecommunications (DoT) has summoned chief executives of top telecom companies on Wednesday to discuss norms on monitoring dropped calls that were announced by the telecom regulator last year.

DoT will hold a separate meeting with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on 10 January on the same issue.

The quality of calls has worsened over the past few months, telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said, adding the DoT wants to convey the government’s serious concern to the telcos. Trai had raised the penalty for violations to as much as Rs10 lakh in rules that took effect on 1 October.

“The quality of service had become better in between but of late we have been getting a lot of complaints (of call drops)," Sundararajan told reporters on Monday.

“Operators need to ensure their networks are harmonised," she said on the sidelines of a conference held to mark the completion of the first phase of BharatNet, the government’s programme to connect gram panchayats with high-speed internet.

In August, Trai announced stricter norms effective 1 October to curb dropped calls and put in place a graded penalty clause for erring operators, under which if an operator fails to meet the call drop benchmark in a quarter, it may be liable to pay up to Rs5 lakh. The penalty on the operator can go up to Rs10 lakh for not meeting benchmarks for more than two consecutive quarters.

The regulator has also shifted to a new system of assessing the dropped call rate which will now be measured at the mobile tower level instead of at the telecom circle level. It expects the revision in norms to remove the anomaly which arises due to averaging of call drop rate of bad performing cells in the network with good or excellent performing cells.

The October-December quarter will be the first quarter of reporting under the new norms and Trai last month issued a fresh format for operators to submit network-related data for checking service quality.

After the new guidelines were released, the Cellular Operators Association of India had said quality of service is beyond the absolute control of a telco, as it depends on several extraneous factors such as number of users accessing the network at a time and the kind of device being used.

The industry body had also sought more time from Trai for implementation of the new norms and also urged the regulator not to impose the penalty in case it did not accept the industry’s request for more time for implementation. “There are several aspects to the call drop problem. Operators need to invest large sums to fix call drops. Also, widespread fear about radiation has made it difficult to install the towers needed. There are no easy solutions to these two challenges," said Mahesh Uppal, director at communications consulting firm ComFirst India.

“The only real solution is a competitive market where users seeking better quality can freely switch to a rival operator. Unfortunately, today most operators offer similar service quality. Even penalising operators for not meeting norms is impractical. Factors responsible for call drops are so many and the scale of the problem so huge that proof and enforcement are a major problem," Uppal added.

In September, telecom minister Manoj Sinha chaired a review meeting with operators on call drops which was attended by Bharti Airtel Ltd chief executive officer (India and South Asia) Gopal Vittal; Idea Cellular Ltd managing director Himanshu Kapania; Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd board member Mahendra Nahata; Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd chairman and managing director Anupam Srivastava; and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd chairman and managing director P.K. Purwar.

There has been “substantial improvement" in dropped call rates and the DoT has asked operators to ensure further improvement on this front by December, Sinha had then told reporters.

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