Telecoms up in arms against TRAI on call drop penalty

Cellular towers in China
Telecom industry stakeholders today wrote to TRAI, terming its decision to impose penalty on service providers for call drops grossly unjust and a move that will eventually negatively impact the interests of the 900 million mobile users.

“We are taken aback and shocked by the authority’s Regulation for compensation, which, we respectfully submit, is grossly unjust and will eventually negatively impact the interests of the consumers and the service providers,” said a joint letter written by the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) and the Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI).

COAI represents telecom network operators such as Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone India, Aircel, etc. AUSPI represents Reliance Communications and Tata Docomo.

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on October 16 mandated monetary compensation for dropped calls from January 1 next year at the rate of a rupee for each such failure. This will result into huge cash flow to telecoms if they do not improve network quality.

The regulation held that the calling consumer will get a credit of Re 1 per call drop, limited to three such occurrences per day in a 24-hour cycle. Following that, the mobile operators have to send them an SMS within four hours, reports IANS.

In the letter, the associations said: “During the consultation process including the open house discussion, the service providers had made detailed submissions, which remain unaddressed and unanswered in the TRAI regulation.”

“We request the authority to withdraw a defective regulation though it may have proceeded with all good intentions,” they urged.

They noted wireless networks cannot be designed to ensure zero call drops, as the physics of radio waves and their propagation characteristics limits the efficiency of a communication system to less than 100 percent, even if infinite resources are assigned.

“In a cellular mobile radio network, having full coverage and capacity everywhere is an oxymoron. Globally, mobile radio networks are invariably designed for a grade of service. Consequently, 2 percent call drops have been accepted as a global norm,” the letter said.

It said the regulation for compensation is a prescription for a plethora of pointless disputes/ litigations due to issues around subjectivity. “Further, this will unnecessarily inundate call centres, which is not just very costly, but will sharply deteriorate regular service to the consumer.”

To address the customer’s concerns of charging of the dropped calls, a majority of operators have already taken steps towards converting 100 percent of their pre-paid subscribers to per second plans.

“Further all post-paid subscribers are offered various discounted plans and also have the choice to opt for the per second based plan as well.”

The said regulations are unprecedented in any kind of service industry, be it the railways or even the essential service like supply of water and electricity. At no point of time, railways are made to pay compensation for any delayed/cancelled train. Even the water/electricity supply boards/companies are not made to compensate for lack of/deficient supply of water/electricity, the letter to TRAI said.

This new mandatory compensation payable by the originating operator that too for complying with the mandated quality of service norms, is not only self-contradictory, a double jeopardy.

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