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Centre, Trai forced to address call drop misery

Centre, Trai forced to address call drop misery
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court on Thursday asks the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to consider amending penalties proposed on cell companies for call drops and inform it on what steps it would be taking. 

On the same day after a rap on the knuckles from the apex court, the government finally seems to have woken up from its slumber as the Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad announced on Thursday that he is all set to personally monitor call drops in the Capital.

In the apex court, cell companies had argued that technical details and difficulties had not been taken into account by TRAI while fixing penalties. “On the one hand municipal authorities were sealing cell phone towers which directly affect the quality of calls and on the other hand TRAI is charging penalties and not supporting us in getting our towers up and running,” the cell companies said in their plea to the apex court. Cell companies said that in any service there will be some elements of failure. Supreme Court has asked TRAI to review call drop penalty regulation in view of technical issues which are beyond telcos’ control. 

The apex court on March 4, 2016 had declined interim stay on Delhi HC order upholding TRAI’s decision making it mandatory for telcos to compensate subscribers for call drop. The regulator has mandated the telcos to compensate the consumers with Re.1 per call up to 3 dropped calls per day starting from January 2016, which has been unanimously opposed by the telcos. TRAI had issued technical paper on November 15, 2015 post call drop penalty regulation. TRAI also told the Supreme Court that the technical paper is independent of call drop penalty regulation.

Meanwhile, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday said he will personally go around the National Capital along with top officials to monitor the quality of mobile calls. Prasad also exhorted state-run telecom operator BSNL to strive harder to expand its customer base and asked its top officials to “come out of their office and work on the ground level”, saying he himself was ready to “sit and sell SIMs for BSNL”.

“I, (JS) Deepak and Anupam (Shrivastava) will go around in Delhi to monitor call drops,” Prasad said at a BSNL event where he launched a modern telephone service of the telecom PSU. Prasad had earlier conducted drive tests in Indore with Shrivastava, the Chairman and Managing Director of BSNL.

In a bid to tackle the call drop menace, the TRAI too conducted drive tests in December-January and found that network quality of most of telecom operators, including state-run MTNL, was below par. None of the telecom operators showed improvement in call drops in Mumbai, Pune and Bhubaneswar, the TRAI report said. In Indore, Trai found 2G network of Airtel, Vodafone, RCom CDMA and Tata CDMA complying with call drop norms while other telcos failed. 

Also, TRAI has directed telcos to provide Re 1 compensation for each call dropped, with a compensation cap of Rs 3 per day. Prasad said that he wants BSNL to increase its customer base to 1 crore in 2016-17 year and is even ready to “sell SIMs” for the PSU.

“In around April, BSNL was selling 7-8 lakh SIM (cards) and in January-March, BSNL started selling 20 lakh SIMs. I am told BSNL has 70 lakh customers. I would like to see this customer base swell to 1 crore net in 2016-17,” said the minister. “I am even ready to sit and sell sims for BSNL,” he added.

Prasad said that BSNL needs to communicate to masses about its services. “If BSNL can market its product with right strategy, I am sure we will see same kind of revolution in landline segment as we have seen in mobile telephony.”

unfinished conversations
  •  SC on Thursday asked TRAI “to consider amending penalties proposed on cell companies for call drops and inform it about what steps it would be taking.” SC also asked TRAI to review call drop penalty regulation in view of technical issues which are beyond telcos’ control
  •   The Apex Court on March 4, 2016 had declined interim stay on Delhi HC order upholding TRAI’s decision making it mandatory for telcos to compensate subscribers for call drop
  •   Earlier, TRAI had mandated the telcos to compensate the consumers with Re1 per call up to 3 dropped calls per day starting from January 2016, which was unanimously opposed by the Telcos
  •   TRAI had also issued technical paper on November 15, 2015 post call drop penalty regulation. TRAI also told the SC that the technical paper is independent of call drop penalty regulation
  •   Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar said that he is all set to personally monitor call drops in the Capital
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