Mumbai: SBI chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya on Monday joined the debate on frequent call drops, citing a personal experience of not being able to get seamless connectivity while driving along Marine Drive, and warned that bad networks are detrimental to financial inclusion agenda.
“Today, even a drive from my office to my house, which is along the Marine Drive, I have at least five identified places where the calls drop,” Bhattacharya said while addressing the annual FIBAC summit of bankers here.
Though on a lighter note, she quipped that it’s good to have 20 minutes of peace while being driven from the bank headquarters in the Nariman Point central business district to her official residence at the tony Malabar Hill area which is less than 6 kms away.
Bhattacharya said such call drops in the heart of the nation’s financial capital reflect poorly on the country as a whole.
“It doesn’t say much for the country. In a place like Mumbai, and that too on Marine Drive, if you aren’t able to get calls, this is not good,” she said, adding that such coverage by the telcos might hinder the ambitious financial inclusion plans.
“This is an area which is very important and unless we are going to get connectivity across the country at a much better bandwidth, it is going to be very difficult to push this agenda (of financial inclusion and digital banking) and take it really forward,” she said.
She added that many times, it is the lack of access that makes people not use a banking account and we need to collectively look into this aspect.
It may be noted that for many months, the government and the telcos have been in a duel over the rising incidence of call drops. The menace assumed importance after the government got an audit done on telcos to ascertain the issue.
While telcos have for years been blaming the lack of spectrum and ban on putting up enough number of towers as the main reasons for poor connectivity, government of late began to believe that the main problem lies in telcos not investing enough to improve connectivity.
On August 16, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) asked telcos to file weekly update on call drops.
It may be noted that telecom coverage in the national capital is also equally bad.
The DoT asked operators to improve connectivity by August 20 in areas like the I&B Ministry headquarters at Sanchar Bhawan, the Supreme Court premises, Shastri Bhawan that houses a host of ministries, the airport-Rashtrapati Bhawan route, certain Metro stations and the high-profile Aurangzeb Road.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has found a two-fold jump in call drops on 2G networks and 65% on 3G in a one-year period.
The industry average of call drop incidents at the end of January-March 2015 period was 12.5% compared to 6.01% a year ago on 2G networks.
As per the norms, call drops, in the worst case scenario, should not be over 3%.