Telcos should compensate users for call drops, proposes TRAI

New Delhi: Plagued by the vexed problem of call drops, telecom regulator TRAI on Saturday proposed that service providers should compensate mobile subscribers for call drops and poor quality of services.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Saturday floated a consultation paper seeking public view on the proposal.

"It appears that a consumer relief measure against call drops would be effective only if it reaches the affected consumers. These measures could extend from not charging the consumers for dropped calls to compensating them by crediting talk-time or amounts in their accounts," the TRAI paper said.

The regulator proposed that any call which gets dropped within five seconds would not be charged, and in case a call gets dropped any time after five seconds, the last pulse of the call should not be included for the purpose of charging. TRAI has come out with the paper more than a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed concerns on call drop problem being faced by consumers across country.

"Call drop is a problem faced by consumers so they should be directly compensated," TRAI Chairman R S Sharma told PTI. At present, TRAI levies penalty on telecom operators for failing to meet service quality benchmarks. As per the rule, call drop should not be more than 2 per cent of all calls made on a network in a telecom service area.

"The consumers seem to be asking a simple question: Having paid for the service, why should I be denied a reasonable call quality?" TRAI said in the consultation paper. In the past one year, consumers at various fora have raised the issue of call drops, complaining that their experience of making voice calls has deteriorated, TRAI said.

"The issue of too frequent call drops seems to have annoyed not only the consumers and businesses, but also has become a major cause of concern for policymakers and Parliamentarians," TRAI said. The call drop problem during peak hours in one year has almost doubled, as per a report of the regulator.

Last date for submitting comments on the paper is September 28. TRAI said lack of investment by operators in infrastructure may be one of the reasons for call drops and the investment has not kept pace with the rise in usage. Investment made in the network infrastructure (other than radio spectrum) in wireless access service segment rose by 4.6 per cent from Rs 2,02,366 crore in 2012-13 to Rs 2,11,691 crore in 2013-14.

During this period, the minutes of usage grew by 6.8 per cent. "Clearly, investment has not kept pace with the usage. Thus, prima facie, it appears that lack of investment in network infrastructure by the wireless access providers may be one of the main reasons for the problem of call drops," TRAI said.

Analysing the issue of call drops, TRAI said operators can reduce them to a large extent by way of improving radio coverage, expanding the capacity of the network and optimising the performance of various network elements, which requires both effort and investments on their part.

TRAI said during the period from quarter ending June, 2013 to March, 2015, the growth in minutes of usage (MOU) of GSM network has been 12 per cent and increase in 2G data usage has been 106 per cent. However, the number of 2G base tower stations (BTSs) grew by 8 per cent during this period.

Similarly, the growth in 3G data was 252 per cent whereas the number of Nodes B increased by 61 per cent during the same period. Regarding the contention of telecom operators that most of the customers are on second-based billing, TRAI said as per the information furnished by them for the quarter ending March, 2015, 71 per cent of the mobile consumers on a pan-India basis were on per-second-billing tariff plans.

"However only 59 per cent of the total outgoing voice usage happened on per-second basis. Thus, the contention of the TSPs is only partly correct as about 41 per cent of the total voice consumption happens on a per-minute-pulse in the country," TRAI said.

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