New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) will bring out norms to tackle the menace of “call muting" and measure quality of service for voice calls on Long Term Evolution (LTE) or VoLTE networks within a month, Trai chairman R.S. Sharma said on Monday.

“The consultation paper for this was issued in February. This is an urgent problem and we will solve it as early as possible... less than one month," Sharma said.

These norms, as and when they are decided, are expected to be integrated into the existing quality of service (QoS) norms issued by the regulator.

In August, Trai had announced 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.

Under these norms, the regulator moved to a new system of assessing the dropped call rate which would now be measured at the mobile tower level instead of at the telecom circle level.

However, in January, incumbent operators urged the regulator to factor in the issue of “call muting", which is a phenomenon where the call is not disconnected but users are unable to hear each other’s voice for a few seconds. Call muting occurs only on VoLTE networks.

The regulator had then in February issued a consultation paper on “Voice Services to LTE users (including VoLTE and Circuit Switched Fall Back)" seeking stakeholder comments on whether prescribed QoS parameters were sufficient to effectively monitor QoS of VoLTE/CSFB calls and if not what new parameters could be introduced.

“New technologies have got new quality of service-related parameters like call mute etc. These are currently not part of the bouquet of parameters for measuring quality of service. The idea is to explore as to whether additional parameters which are relevant to these technologies should be included in this bouquet; if yes, then what should be the standards of those parameters," Sharma said on Monday on the sidelines of an open house held to discuss the issue.

Meanwhile, market leader Bharti Airtel and new entrant Reliance Jio again differed on norms needed for VoLTE networks.

Since the entry of Reliance Jio, the telecom sector has been beset with controversy—from operators sparring over network testing norms to provision of points of interconnection (PoIs), the cut in interconnection usage charges and more recently on Trai’s norms to check predatory tariffs.

Airtel believes since the existing QoS norms cover only circuit switched voice, a new QoS regime is required for non-circuit switch calls i.e. VoLTE.

“We need more than what has been prescribed in the QoS norms. Call mute is a key concern... it is the highest irritant after a call is established... we suggest measuring the silence frame between 2-3 second intervals," Varaprasad, Executive Vice President, Core and Network Services, Bharti Airtel said at the open house held to discuss this issue on Monday.

However, Airtel’s bitter rival Reliance Jio, which is a pure-VoLTE network, said that Trai had issued norms in August itself and there was no case for changing these benchmarks after few months and since most providers were still rolling out VoLTE across India it would be prudent to give sufficiently stable parameters.

“There is no scientifically proven method to record call muting therefore it should not be included as a parameter," Mahipal Singh, associate vice-president of Reliance Jio said.

Airtel has 20 million VoLTE users and aims to cross 100 million by September end whereas Reliance Jio is a pure-VoLTE network with 168 million users as of January end.

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