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Be ready to compensate consumers for call drops from Jan 1, says Trai to telcos

New Delhi: Telecom regulator Trai has asked mobile service providers to ready their systems to compensate consumers for call drops from January 1. And in the meantime, it has expressed its willingness to examine the issues raised by them.

“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,” Trai Chairman R S Sharma told reporters today.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had already held a meeting with telecom operators on implementation of call drop compensation rules and steps taken by them to improve quality of service.

According to the 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.

Telecom operators have questioned Trai’s jurisdiction to impose such rules on them and technical feasibility of its implementation.

“An impression is being created that the authority has imposed this regulation without considering the technical feasibility of its operation. Before issuing regulation, the authority has considered all aspects of the matter, including technical feasibility,” Sharma said.

Industry bodies such as COAI and AUSPI have written a letter to the regulator that implementation of the rules may lead to higher mobile call rates.

“They (industry bodies) want us to review the decision. First, we will examine legally if Trai can review the decision or not and further decide the course of action,” Sharma said.

He said the decision will be conveyed to telecom operators within two weeks.

“Call drop benchmark is 2%, but that does not mean that you (operators) can have 100% in some areas… They have assured us to improve their performance. We are not here to only criticise them, but help them improve quality of service,” Sharma said.

The meeting was attended by Bharti Airtel India MD and CEO Gopal Vittal, Vodafone India MD and CEO Sunil Sood, Idea Cellular MD and CEO Himanshu Kapania, Reliance Jio Infocomm MD Sanjay Mashruwala and MTNL Director Sunil Kumar.

Industry body COAI DG Rajan S Mathews, AUSPI Secretary General Ashok Sud and representatives of other telecom companies were also present.

Telecom operators have also questioned selection of the areas by the regulator for testing call drops.

However, Sharma said Trai has agreed to add five cities — Ahmedabad, Indore, Surat, Bhubaneswar and Kolkata — for the tests and randomly select routes. Tests in the five cities were conducted in September, the report of which is ready.

“We will first share the report with telecom operators tomorrow to study their reservations and then publish it on the website after a week. The report on the 5 cities will give not just statistics, but reasons for call drops,” Sharma said.

Trai will again conduct tests on new routes in seven cities, including Delhi and Mumbai, in December.

“We hope that in the next week or so, Trai will come back to us. We have to give them a chance to respond to our letter.

We have not decided on a tariff hike, but operators are going to do something. It will be an individual operator’s call, but obviously there will be pressure on tariff if regulation stays,” Mathews said after meeting.

Sud said the expansion of tests to more cities will help get a better picture of the call drop problem and help improve consumers’ perception.

Trai is also working on to implement a technology that will show status of service quality around a mobile tower along with the name of telecom operators.

“We are working on a system on our page which will have quality of service (QoS). The ultimate goal is to have this map pan India, but we will begin with some location. That will show near real-time status of QoS. Consumers will get to know the best operator in their area with the help of the map,” Sharma said.

The data will be displayed on the Trai website which will be linked to service monitoring system of telecom operators.