New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Monday upheld the telecom regulator’s decision to make it mandatory for service providers to compensate subscribers for call drops from 1 January 2016.

A bench comprising chief justice G. Rohini and justice Jayant Nath dismissed a clutch of petitions filed by Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and 21 telecom operators, including Bharti Airtel Ltd, Aircel Ltd, Vodafone India Ltd and Idea Cellular Ltd.

“We uphold the validity of the regulation," the bench said.

The court stated that since it had not stayed the notification during the course of the matter, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) would be at liberty to implement its decision from 1 January, 2016 onward.

“We’re disappointed with the order, we are looking into the details of the order. We are likely to file an appeal," Rajan Mathews, director general of COAI, said.

“As of today, we have to begin paying up for call drops," he added. The telcos have the option of filing an appeal with the Supreme Court.

The 39-paged judgment clearly lays down that the object and purpose of Quality of Service (QOS) Regulations and Consumer Regulations were entirely different. “The network standard or tolerance of 2% imposed by the Quality of Service Regulations has been prescribed as a quality parameter for the entire network area and the same is distinct from the compensation provided to the consumers for the dropped calls," it held.

Telcos had opposed the notification which they termed “arbitrary and without application of mind" while holding 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.

During hearing, Trai maintained that the problem (call drops) was countrywide, and not restricted to a few cities or pockets. The regulator also said it issued the regulations after much deliberation and taking into account the suggestions of all the stakeholders.

Stressing that call drops have worsened over time, the regulator stated that compensation for call drops and steps taken by the authority in this regard were in public interest.

According to Trai’s 16 October notification, telcos would credit 1 to a user for every call drop, subject to a maximum of 3 per day. The telcos challenged this notification on 11 December in the Delhi high court, claiming that additional compensation would cost the companies 54,000 crore a year.

Shauvik Ghosh contributed to the story.

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