TRAI asks telcos to compensate for call drops, industry frets

New Delhi: Telecom regulator TRAI on Friday made it mandatory for telecom operators to provide one rupee compensation to consumers for every call drop effective January 1, 2016.

The compensation will, however, be limited to three dropped calls in a day, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said in a statement on Friday.

As per the new rule, the telecom operator will have to send a message through SMS or USSD message to the customer who made the call within four hours of a call drop and details of the amount credited to his account.

For post-paid customers, the details of the credit should be provided in the next bill.

The regulator said it's of the view that the mandated regime would provide relief to customers to some extent and spur players to improve quality of service.

Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad echoed Trai's view. "As far as the tariff is concerned, under the Trai Act, the regulator is the final authority. And once this regulation has been framed, this becomes law of land, binding on operators and the government. Therefore, we welcome it, we hope it will go a long way in addressing the concerns of consumers," he said.

The minister appealed again to all operators to address the issue of call drops 'very seriously'. "The Vodafone chief was here. I sensitised him... The Telecom Secretary has also spoken to all owners. My office is monitoring it. I hope the issue of call drops will become a thing of the past at the earliest," Prasad said.

Industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) estimated that the regulation may force the industry to shell out about Rs 150 crore every day even if half of consumer base in the country faces this problem.

"There are various provisions which the regulator has ignored. If there is a problem in network of the subscriber to whom the call is being made, then why should the company from whose network the call has originated be penalised?" Cellular Operators Association of India Director General Rajan S Mathews said.

COAI said it will approach the regulator as this mandate is a diversion for the real issue behind call drops and put the industry concern across to the regulator.

"Some 350 towers have been sealed in Delhi in the last three weeks and 100 in Mumbai in the last 4-5 months. How can you expect to resolve the call drop problem with local authorities sealing mobile towers?" Mathews asked. He also said licence conditions do not mandate telecom operators to provide 100 per cent coverage and also inside buildings.

"Why should an operator compensate a consumer if call drop happens in part not covered as per licence conditions? The licence conditions say signals for street level coverage should be 85 dBu, which in some case may provide in-building coverage and sometimes not. Why should an operator compensate if call drop happens inside building?" Mathews wondered. He further said the regulator has also not factored in technological changes and cost burden on the industry to implement changes in network as per its recommendations.

"We will discuss all these issues with Trai before taking any further decision," Mathews said.

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