Govt backs TRAI on chronic call drop problem

R S Sharma & ShaNKAR

Union Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday said that the penalty for mobile call drops announced by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) would be implemented as scheduled from January 2016. This makes it clear that Trai would only reiterate its known stand on call drops while responding to the joint petition of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and Association of Unified Service Providers of India (Auspi).

The operators associations, in the petition sent in the last week of October, have questioned Trai’s jurisdiction to impose call drop penalty on them. Their argument is that there is no such thing as 100 per cent capacity/coverage everywhere “even if infinite resources are assigned”. They say that a 2 per cent call-drop ratio is a global norm, and by asking for compensation for call drops, Trai is mandating a zero call-drop regime.

According to Trai guidelines, telecom operators will have to compensate consumers Re 1 for every call drop that occurs due to fault in their network, which is limited to a maximum of Rs 3 a day per consumer. Operators say this will knock off up to one third of their earnings.

“I have made it very clear. It’s a valid regulation. Neither overturned by a competent authority, nor annulled, modified or cancelled. The operators must take steps to prepare themselves to implement this (from January 1, 2016),” Trai Chairman R S Sharma told reporters some time ago. Sharma also made it clear that he was open to discuss legitimate issues with the operators.

Before issuing the guidelines on call drop, Trai had come out with a consultation paper on compensation for call drops. It had also conducted tests in Mumbai and Delhi in June, July and September, to assess mobile network conditions, specifically radio frequency coverage, network accessibility, and retainability of network, measured by the call drop rate. The results showed unsatisfactory network quality.

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