THIS IS IT
As I Was Saying
Never mind, the call dropped
Every telecom subscriber has learned to live with call drops. Almost every fifth call one makes is abruptly disconnected midway—no warnings, no apologies. Even worse, the subscriber has to still pay for the unutilised call duration as more than 40 per cent subscribers use a perminute tariff plan. Amid all this, if one thought that shifting to another operator would solve the problem, they would soon find out that things are not as simple as that.
Telecom subscribers have been facing substantial call drops for at least the last two years, as borne out by data provided by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in their ‘ Consultation Paper on Call Drops’. However, it took the intervention of the country’s prime minister before the government machinery started working in earnest to address the problem – to begin with, by assessing the infrastructure and capacity of telecom operators for effectively providing services.
What Is a Call Drop?
As per TRAI, “Call drop represents the service provider’s inability to maintain a call once it has been correctly established, both incoming and outgoing, which, once established and assigned traffic channel (TCH), are dropped or interrupted prior to their normal completion by the user, the cause of the early termination being within the service provider’s network.”
As per ‘The Standards of Quality of Service of
Basic Telephone Service (Wireline) and Cellular Mobile Telephone Regulations, 2009’, call-drop rate (averaged over a calendar month) of any cellular mobile telephone service provider should not exceed two per cent. This seems to be norm in most of the developed countries as well.
As per a study conducted in Delhi by Phimetrics Technologies, call-drop rates were widely different even for two telcos with similar subscriber base, spectrum ownership and tower distribution. This means spectrum and towers are not the main contributors to call drops. The study also found that:
off-peak hours midnight So, the telcos are barking up the wrong tree. Again, the independent Drive Tests (IDTs) conducted by TUV SUD, on behalf of TRAI, in Mumbai (June 2015) and in Delhi (July 2015) showed call-drop rates for various telecom service providers (TSPs) on the pre-selected routes to be:
It does seem that all telcos are facing call-drop issues except for one each in Delhi and Mumbai. This demolishes the argument by telcos/TRAI that unhappy consumers can always opt for mobilenumber portability (MNP) since all telcos are more or less the same.
The main reasons for dropped calls are: (such as failed handover or cell-reselection attempts) different elements of the network (such as cells) Thus, call drops occur due to either inadequate coverage (insufficient tower spread) or insufficient capacity of the telco’s network to handle the traffic. Now, so far as Delhi is concerned, inadequate coverage is not a sufficient reason as it boasts of 2.2 towers per square kilometre, which compares well with Singapore (also 2.2) and Shanghai (2.1). That capacity is the main culprit is borne out by the TRAI analysis as well (refer to table on next
* 1 Peta Byte = 1,024 Tera Byte # In the above table, the usage of GSM network has been represented in terms of main usage items, viz. voice usage and data (Internet) usage (Source: Information furnished by TSPs to TRAI) This table clearly demonstrates that GSM voice traffic for all GSM telcos grew only 12 per cent from the quarter ending June 2013 to the quarter ending March 2015, whereas 2G data traffic grew 106 per cent and 3G data grew 252 per cent in the same period. At the same time, base transceiver station (BTS) towers grew by only 8 per cent whereas 3G-Node B grew to a phenomenal 61 per cent, clearly showing the preference of telcos for investments in data capacity over voice capacity. (It is even plausible that voice resources are being diverted to data, which is more lucrative.)
For a telecom consumer, every dropped call means:
– that is, call drop making the repeat call has to not only apologise for the dropped call but also repeat the conversation to bring back the context before stating the purpose/ completing the call, thereby making a much longer call than envisaged originally and spending more than double the intended call charges
+ repeat calls
Thus, for the consumer the issue is not only of monetary loss but also relates to loss of precious time and reputation apart from lost opportunities, which cannot be compensated.
TRAI’s proposal for compensating telecom consumers for dropped calls revolves around compensation for the last second/minute of the call terminated, which is in a few paise. This is mere eyewash as it does not address all the consumer detriments listed above. There is no dis-incentive for the continued call drops. (For a 2% call-drop rate, assuming a per/second pulse rate @ Rs 0.02, the compensation estimated is Rs 21 crores for the quarter ended March 2015, for all the telcos operational in Delhi combined, which is not even 1 per cent of their gross adjusted revenue for the quarter.)
Sealing of towers by municipal authorities due to RWA pressure: On the face of it, Delhi has 2.2 towers per square kilometre. A pertinent fact is that telcos or their associations (Cellular Operators Association of IndiaCOAI/Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India-AUSPI) have not made any honest effort to educate the public on electromagnetic field (EMF) radiations from telecom towers. Shortage of spectrum: The quantum of available spectrum was very well known to every telco that entered the Indian market. Also, if telcos feel that they have insufficient capacity (spectrum), they should have stopped taking in new subscribers – here TRAI also is the culprit for not being proactive. (Can somebody commit to sell more than his production capacity?) Telcos will lose subscribers through MNP if they do not reduce call drops: Telcos’ argument that unhappy consumers can always opt for MNP is invalid because all of them have a similar level of call drops, which means no alternative is available to subscribers. Amid all this going and forth of points, one thing is a must: TRAI should monitor call drops on a monthly basis and telcos scoring more than four per cent call drops should be barred from adding new subscribers till they achieve a call-drop score below two per cent. Not only this, telcos should refund money lost in talk time due to call drops for the last three months.