Trai will again begin drive tests in January to assess call drop and other network issues of various operators, including newcomer Reliance Jio. “Drive tests are going to start next month. We should have had it in the fourth quarter, that is December, but there were delays due to some issue with our agency...Those are being sorted out and we will definitely have drive test in January,” said Trai Chairman, R S Sharma.
Recalling that the last round of drive tests were in 12 cities, Sharma said this time around, they would be conducted in “at least those 12 cities.” “There may be additional areas, and also maybe, some highways...This will be the first time we may be covering the highways,” Sharma said.
Asked if the new operator Reliance Jio will also be part of the drive test this time, he said, “Yes, sure. Jio will be there”. According to Trai’s analytics portal, drive tests were conducted in Amritsar in August-September, and in Delhi, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Lucknow, Kanpur, Ahmedabad, Ranchi, Darjeeling, Sikkim and Trivandrum in May-June.
While the telecom operators submit Performance Monitoring Reports to Trai every quarter, the regulator also undertakes audit and assessment of service quality through independent agencies. The audit agencies conduct sample Drive tests across various cities in the country, as part of audit and assessment of the operators’ performance.
The drive tests assess the performance of networks on various quality benchmarks, including call set-up success rate, call drop rate, blocked calls and Radio Frequency (RF) Coverage. Over the last few months, both telecom regulator and Department of Telecom have toughened their stance on service quality issues such as call drops and call failures.
In October, Trai recommended imposition of Rs 1,050 crore penalty each for Airtel and Vodafone, and Rs 950 crore for Idea Cellular, for denying interconnect to Jio, after taking note of the high rate of call failures and congestion at interconnect points for the new operator. Telecom Department has been calling regular meetings with CEO of telcos to review the call drop situation, an issue that has been troubling mobile phone users for a long time.
In an attempt to tackle the call drop menance, DoT has announced the launch of an Integrated Voice Response System (IVRS) system at multiple locations including Delhi and Mumbai to obtain direct feedback from subscribers on call quality.
Reliance Jio justifies free call-data offer
Reliance Jio has told Trai that its latest voice and data offer does not violate any of the existing norms that requires promotional offers to be limited to 90 days. Replying to clarification sought by Trai on it extending the free call and data offer till March 31 after the promotional 90-day period expired on December 4, Jio sent a detailed note explaining how its ‘Happy New Year Offer’ was different from the inaugural offer and does not qualify to be termed as predatory.
Sources said the company explained in detail how the new offer cannot be termed as extension of the promotional offer as it was different from the inaugural offer launched in early September. The response was to Trai’s letter dated December 20, in which the regulator asked the company why its `Happy New Year offer’ should not be seen as “violation” of regulatory guidelines and also why the offer of free data under the promotional scheme should not be treated as “predatory”.
Jio has been maintaining that the latest Happy New Year offer is substantiatively different from the Jio Welcome Offer (that commenced on September 5) as 4GB of free data per day was being provided under the initial offer, while the same was capped at 1GB (under Fair Usage Policy) in the new offer.