New Delhi: The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI) and 21 telecom service providers on Monday came down heavily on the telecom regulator while opposing the need for mandatory compensation to subscribers for call drops.

Opposing the need for such a measure and calling it a knee-jerk reaction, senior counsel Harish Salve, on behalf of telcos, told the Delhi high court that there were various reasons for call drops beyond the control of telecom service providers and that it was impossible to find the exact reason for each such drop.

He further said that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) notification was “arbitrary and one without application of mind".

He pointed out that the call drop rate at approximately 0.75% was well within the 2% permissible level under the quality of service benchmarks, as laid down by Trai in 2009.

“In a consultation paper by Trai on 4 April 2015, they have recognised the serious problem of issues like towers, spectrum jamming and interference," Abhishek Manu Singhvi, counsel for the telecom companies, told the bench comprising chief justice G. Rohini and justice Jayant Nath.

He also highlighted Trai’s technical paper dated 13 November wherein a variety of technical reasons for call drops were accepted by the authority.

Explaining to the court the effect of the proposed regulation on telcos, Salve said, “We have 1 billion users. If 30% of them suffer a call drop because of their fault, it amounts to 90 crore for us. If 20% do it, then it amounts to 60 crore a day. This kind of strict liability for compensation is wrong."

Telecom operator Telenor, formerly Uninor, apprised the court of its current compensation policy for call drops. “As a good business practice, we have adopted a scheme where we credit talk time of 3 minutes to a subscriber for a call drop which must be used within 24 hours. This is a voluntary step taken by us. I cannot have two regimes— voluntary and mandatory—operating against me for call drops," advocate Meet Malhotra representing Telenor said.

According to a 16 October Trai notification, telcos must credit 1 to a user for every call that ends abruptly due to poor mobile signal, subject to a maximum of 3 per day. Telcos are opposing this. The notification was to take effect from 1 January 2016. The court will continue to hear the matter on 12 January.

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