Telecom operators seek essential services tag as govt takes them task over call drops

DoT has asked the TSPs to invest on technology to improve service, instead of blaming govt and tower shortage

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Taru Bhatia | August 20, 2015 | New Delhi


#mobile   #call drop   #telecom operators   #dot   #telecommunication   #cell tower  

There seems to be no end to the tug-of-war between the telecom service providers (TSPs) and the department of telecommunication (DoT) on the issue of deteriorating quality of service and increasing call drops on the cellular network in the country.

Confronting the telecom operators on the call dropping issue, the DoT has asked the TSPs to invest on technology to improve overall quality of service, instead of blaming the state governments and lack of towers for the deteriorating service quality.

The TSPs on the other hand have warned that problem of call drop may aggravate further unless the government creates a mechanism to tackle the operational difficulties of installing more towers across the country. According to the TSPs over 10,000 cell sites have been made non-operational during the last one year majorly impacting the quality of service in cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Patna and Jaipur.

The telecom operators and industry associations are also demanding a uniform tower policy that can be implemented across the country to resolve this issue. The telecom operators have also been blaming the technological shift from 2G to 3G/LTE and shift in spectrum usage – from voice to data – as another reason for call drop.

At a joint press conference held by Indian telecom operators and associations, on Monday, the telecom operators had not only alleged lack of cooperation from state governments over the clearances for the deployment of towers at different sites, they also claimed that the telecom industry had invested over Rs 1,34,000 crore of which Rs 24,000 crore was for capital equipments. This, the industry claimed amounted to a capex to revenue ratio of 73 percent, as against the global average of 12-18 percent.

Rebutting the telecom industry claim, DoT in a press release clarified that of the total investment mentioned by the operators the TSPs had spent Rs 1,10,000 crore for spectrum. “It can’t be counted towards investment for reinforcement of infrastructure by way of installing towers and base stations,” DoT said, adding that excluding the investment on spectrum the capex to revenue ratio is just 13 percent.

Sharing details of the meeting with the telecom industry that was held at the Sanchar Bhawan on Monday thr DoT release said that the department has suggested several initiatives that the TSPs should take to improve overall quality of cellular services in the country. These include: installation of more mobile towers for optimum coverage, use of geo-spatial tool for micro-analysing time-spatial performance, real time network optimisation and load balancing.

The DoT secretary Rakesh Garg also advised the TSPs to deploy separate network quality enhancement team and installation of low power small cells to address coverage holes to ensure better quality of service to the users.

The department has also advised telecom operators to be ready for technological transformation and shift in user behavior. “Telecom companies should take necessary steps in advance to meet the challenges,” DoT officials pointed out adding that the operators must allocate the resources for various services in all frequency bands – 800/900/ 1800/ 2100/ 2300 MHz – in a way that the customers do not suffer.

During the meeting with DoT officials, the service providers had also requested that the government declares telecom service and infrastructure part of the essential services and expedite spectrum harmonization. The TSPs also put forth the need to adopt uniform rules for towers and right of way (RoW) across the country. They were also demanding permission for installing cell towers on government land and buildings, as also in the cantonment areas.

Reiterating the government’s commitment to resolve all bottleneck Garg pointed out that the Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has already discussed the issue with the chief ministers and the minister of urban development to allow installation of towers on government lands and buildings. “Subsequently it has been decided in principle to allow installation of mobile towers in government buildings, subject to technical feasibility of the initiative,” the release said.

However, the DoT has also stressed that the TSPs need to come up with in-building solutions for better coverage. It also pointed out that some state governments have already finalised tower and RoW policy and now the onus was on the operators to install more base stations. “Acute shortage of towers due to non-corporation of state government and local bodies can’t be accepted as a reason for the call drops,” Garg categorically told the TSPs during the meeting.

The secretary, while addressing the concerns point by point, stated that the government is ready to extend all support to the TSPs, including alleviating fear of radiation among citizens against mobile towers, one of the key concerns telecom operators mentioned as the roadblocks behind the installation of mobile towers.

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