Call Drops: Whose problem it is?
Brainstorm the solution at the Voice&Data Forum
The call drop issue has exacerbated in India in the past four-five months with the quality of service (QoS) dropping significantly below the norms prescribed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), leaving the consumers in India at the receiving end. It led to the issue being taken up in earnest at the highest level in the country with Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointing out his concern with the growing call drops menace hitting the common man. He exhorted the telecom companies to address it urgently. The telecommunications ministry has even warned telcos of penal action amounting up to Rs 50 crore if they do not correct the issue with efficient spectrum utilization and a network upgrade.
Telcos have been dragging their feet on the issue citing data explosion and inadequate spectrum. The ‘networks simply cannot keep up’ is the general refrain and they have also highlighted the issues of spectrum trading and various levels of vexing permissions required to set up towers. All of which government is promising to smoothen.
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, according to a report released by the Telecom Regula- tory Authority of India (TRAI). On 3G the call drop percent jump for a period of one year is much worse. According to the norms laid out by TRAI, call drops should be in the range of below 2%.
However, not a single operator is in the acceptable range. The top telcos in India Bharti Airtel, followed by Vodafone, Idea Cellular and BSNL have the maximum number of complaints against them for call drops up to June 30. Industry experts point out the problem is actually more severe as the operator definition of a call drop covers only the disconnection and not the few seconds when you don’t hear what the person at the other end is saying because of low quality of transmission.
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Call drop in a network can occur due to various reasons, including insufficient coverage due to paucity of mobile towers and handover failure due to network congestion on account of more users in a particular area.
“According to service providers, the common reasons attributed to call drops are equipment faults, frequent load shedding in some circles, difficulty in site acquisition and restrictions near international border,” stated Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad while explaining the issue in a parliamentary debate. He informed that the call drop rate should be less than 2%, according to the TRAI benchmark. The performance of service providers against the benchmark for call drops is monitored by TRAI and in this regard, meetings have been held by the regulator with operators for improving their performance.
In August, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) also asked all the telcos to file weekly update on call drops and to improve connectivity with immediate effect 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, and certain Metro stations among others.
Things could improve if telecom connectivity is treated on part with electricity and water supply and uniform code on providing it is adopted countrywide. However, that is easier said than done. Prasad has taken the initiative to connect with states and highlight to respective chief ministers why their support is critical and has gone ahead and offered rooftops of government buildings to set up boosters and towers. In Indian governance structure, states and municipal bodies have influence over the decision and a uniform code is something the telcos have been demanding for years now. With the data explosion expected with the improved 3G uptake and the 4G traffic that will build up by early 2016 policy level initiatives have become urgent to ensure that digital India dream fructifies.