Indian telecom operators to make Rs 74,000 crore investment

Phone user in Vietnam
Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said on Tuesday that telecom operators, including Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, will be making an investment of Rs 74,000 crore to upgrade and expand their network to reduce call drops.

India has more than 1 billion wireless connections across rural and urban areas. The cost of phone calls has touched rock bottom when Reliance Jio announced a Rs 40 plan for free voice and 1 GB data per day for 28 days. The free services put additional pressure on telcos to invest more in networks.

Bharti Airtel, India’s largest telecom operator, has made an investment of Rs 16,000 crore on infrastructure and will be spending another Rs 24,000 crore.

Reliance Jio, India’s largest 4G service provider, said that they will invest Rs 50,000 crore in the coming fiscal.

Idea Cellular, the third largest telecom operator, and Vodafone, the second largest telecom operator, also committed to increasing mobile towers in their network to reduce call drops. Both Idea Cellular and Vodafone are going to merge their telecom operators to compete with Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio.

The development is a good indication for US-based test and measurement company like Keysight Technologies.

Indian mobile operators face issues such as non-availability of cell sites for installing mobile towers primarily due to regulatory issues. Voice calls per cell tower has also increased, IANS reported. The increase in voice calls was due to availability of cost effective packages in the wake of the entry of Reliance Jio.

“Around 400 callers use a mobile tower during same time in India whereas in countries like China and others, this average is in the range of 200-300. They are now discussing with mobile equipment makers to handle this kind of issue,” Sundararajan said.

The operators in their presentation to the Department of Telecommunications showed that even though call drops have stabilised, other problems like fading of voice call have increased due to various issues including some mobile phones not complying with required certification norms.

“Telecom operators said that the call drop problem in mobile phones without Global Conformity Framework certificate is more compared to the certified devices… We will look into enforcing rules more stringently,” she said.

Over the past two years, quality of service, particularly the quality of voice has remained a burning issue. There have been numerous talks between the government, the regulator and the telcos to solve the call drop issues but definite conclusion never came up. Earlier this month, DoT asked companies to get their act together to tackle the call drop issue.

According to telecom operators, data usage has grown 6-7 times and continues to grow 20-25 per cent every month; however, the stupendous growth in voice traffic has increase load on networks.

Telcos put the blame on other operators for the degrading call quality which forced telecom regulator TRAI to come up with strict rules. As per the new rules, the operators may face a maximum penalty of Rs 10 lakh for call drops, which will now be measured at mobile tower level instead of telecom circle level.