Trai goes for call drop penalty, telcos see technical challenge ahead

Call drop threshold fixed with mobile companies being asked to file regular report

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Taru Bhatia | October 16, 2015 | New Delhi


#airtel   #idea cellular   #mobile   #cell tower   #trai   #call drop  

Holding telecom operators responsible for poor service quality, TRAI has today issued ninth amendment to the telecom consumers’ protection regulations, 2012, mandating the TSPs to provide compensation to their consumers for call drops.   

The compensation process will be effective from January 2016.   

“Call drop represents the service provider’s inability to maintain a call once it has been correctly established i.e. calls dropped or interrupted prior to their normal completion by the user, the cause of the early termination being within the service provider’s network,” said the regulator in the notice.

Reacting to the notice, Rajan Matthew, director, cellular operators association of India, said, “We are very disappointed with the ruling. We do not believe that it will address the problem of call drop. It will probably lead to increase customer dissatisfaction because implementation could be a significant challenge.”

Forming a mechanism to provide relief to consumers, the regulator has put mandatory steps for the TSPs to follow in case of call drop. “Credit the account of the calling consumer by one rupee; however such credit in the account of the calling consumer shall be limited to three dropped calls in a day,” said the notice.

It further said the TSPs have to send a message through SMS or USSD to the calling consumer within four hours of the occurrence of call drop and the details of amount credited in his account. For postpaid users, details of the credit in the next bill should be provided, the notice said.

As the issue call drop gained momentum in the past few months, several interactions were held  between the operators, regulator and telecom ministry. While the regulator and DoT blamed operators for not investing much in infrastructure, the operators stated lack of spectrum and difficulty in getting permits for installing cell towers as causes behind the problem.   

The regulatory body considers a benchmark rate of 2 percent and 3 percent (worst affected cell) as a call drop rate threshold for each telecom service provider in each circle and publishes data in the quality of service chapter of the sector's quarterly performance report.

Analysts said TRAI's missive would hit profitability of telecom companies as the maximum allowed compensation of Rs 90 per user per month was almost at the lower end of the monthly average revenue per user (ARPU) they make from voice services they offer.

CDMA telecom body AUSPI's Ashok Sud told a TV channel that measuring dropped calls will be a technical challenge and that there will always be some amount of dropped calls on a mobile network. "The regulator itself defines the limit of normal level of dropped calls at 2 percent. A charge should be levied only if the number of dropped calls crosses this threshold," he said. He said telcos will come together and discuss whether they want to contest the ruling.

Meanwhile, shares of Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular dropped 2.3 percent and 2.6 percent after the news came out.

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