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Government asks Trai to penalise telcos for call drops

The minister for communication and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad, while talking to reporters in Patna on Monday, said they have even asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to penalise telecom operators for call drops.

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As the government and telecom companies (telcos) try to tackle the call drop menace, they are not leaving any stone unturned.

The minister for communication and information technology Ravi Shankar Prasad, while talking to reporters in Patna on Monday, said they have even asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to penalise telecom operators for call drops.

A statement issued by his ministry reiterated the same.

"The Trai has been requested to consider recommending incentives and disincentives for operators for call drops," it said.

The ministry has been working on this move for some time now to push telcos to act on controlling call drop rates in their circles.

In this direction, Trai had issued a consultation note on compensation to the consumers in the event of dropped calls for comments of stakeholders on September 4.

The last date for submission of comments on this paper was September 21. The comments were uploaded on Trai's website for counter comments of stakeholders on September 22. The deadline for the counter comments was Monday.

Rajan Mathews, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), a lobby body of GSM mobile service providers, said the telecos were yet to receive any official notice on it.

"We have received no formal notice from the government on the penalisation (for call drops). All that we know is there is a discussion paper of Trai that talks of compensation to consumers for call drops. There is also a penalty in place for quality of service (QoS) on operators," he said.

The telecom minister, who is currently campaigning for BJP in Patna for the upcoming Bihar election, reportedly claimed that the call drop situation had improved from what it was a few months back.

"There is a problem about call drops, but the situation is improving," he told reporters in Patna.

Mathews backed Prasad's claim saying that department of telecom (DoT) data on call drop did reveal that the situation was improving.

"Yes, going by DoT's call drop data, there seems to be an improvement in the call drop situation. As per its (DoT) state-by-state measurement of the dropped call rate (DRC), there are some isolated areas where it is 6-7% while others are returning to normal (below the benchmark 2%).

According to him, the two major factors for the call drop situation getting better were optimization of network and new cell towers brought into operation.

"The government allotting property and land for the towers has also helped," said the COAI chief.

However, Mathews complained that municipalities have continued to shut down towers, which posed a hindrance in further improving the call drop situation.

"That (municipal corporations shutting down towers) is still happening," he said.

According to him, in the last 30 days itself, some 200 towers had been shut down in Delhi alone because of fear of radiation and demand for fee from operators by the municipal corporation.

Meanwhile, the government, on its part, is trying to do its bit to improve the call drop rate in the country by taking some policy decision to allow installation of towers on government buildings.

"Minister (telecom) has also written to the chief ministers (of states) for permitting the state government buildings (for tower installation), as has been done by the Kerala government. Even the department of post (DoP) has been directed to do so in a transparent manner. All these initiatives have been taken in last three to four months," said a telecom ministry statement.

The government release said the DoT was monitoring all efforts on a weekly to 10 days basis with all the operators.

The special audit of the telecom department showed that out of 34,600 cells operating poorly, about 16,962 cells had improved and work on the rest was on.

G Krishna Kumar, ICT (information technology, communication and telecom) professional based in Bangalore, said the Trai should publish report on call drops on fortnightly basis till call drop rates reduced to somewhere close to the benchmark of less than 2%.

According to him, in Europe, the dropped call rate was about 0.3% to 0.5% and some telcos were aiming to bring that further down.

"The government should ask for direct feedback from the subscribers to gauge the real impact. Are the subscribers really experiencing fewer call drops? Perhaps a system where the feedback can be sent every quarter to the Trai and telcos," he suggested.

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