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Call drop: Telcos say lack of towers to worsen situation

New Delhi :Under fire for frequent call drops, top telecom operators today said problems will further deteriorate unless operational difficulties are tackled in installing towers and sought a national policy in this regard.

At a joint press conference, all telecom operators and industry associations demanded that there should be a uniform tower policy that can be implemented across the country.

“We need a uniform national tower policy which can be implemented nationally and not just guidelines,” Idea Cellular MD Himanshu Kapania told reporters here.

Vodafone India MD & CEO Sunil Sood said Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has already come out in favour of the industry for installing more sites and also allayed fears with regard to radiation threat.

“He has also requested municipalities and state governments to implement the uniform policy so that more towers come. Unless more towers come, problems of call drops and other issues faced by the customers always happen,” Sood added.

On likelihood of the call drop issue further deteriorating going forward, Sood said, “If you don’t get a tower policy, yes, it will.”

When asked about giving compensation to customers against dropped calls, Sood said pricing decisions are taken by individual operators.

“Lets understand customers will choose which operator they like the best and they are free to choose so. Pricing decisions are individual operator discussions,” he added.

Bharti Airtel (India & South Asia) MD & CEO Gopal Vittal said the operators have made massive investments in the sector to provide services and the industry is not going to shy away for making further investments.

“For us the real challenge is to improve quality of services, that is the journey we are on,” Vittal said.

The industry sought additional spectrum and harmonisation of airwaves to improve capacity, as also demanded they be allowed to install towers on government buildings.

The industry cited several challenges being faced during installation of sites due to different reasons including state bodies’ actions against towers without prior notices, restrictions by municipalities, sealing orders, power supply issues and difficulties in getting clearances for installing sites.

Telcos said over 10,000 cell sites have been made non-operational due to some of these reasons across major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Patna, Jaipur, etc.

In the spectrum auctionheld in March this year, all telecom operators committed atotal of Rs 1.09 lakh crore. “In 2014-15 alone, the industry committed Rs 1,34,000crore towards development of networks. Additionally, Rs 24,000crore has been spent by incumbent operators on capitalequipment in 2014-15,” the telcos said.

The industry said it has also been engaging with variousstate governments and local bodies on alignment of statepolicies with the Department of Telecom’s advisory on telecominfrastructure installation.

The telcos said various governments and municipalcorporations are requested to provide permissions for siteinstallation on government buildings and supportive andaffordable Right of Way (RoW) for fibre.