Why doubling penalty will not stop poor quality services from telecoms?

Mobilephone user image
TRAI (The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) on Thursday doubled penalty on Indian telecom network operators for their poor quality services.

The TRAI guideline is expected not to control call drops because the basic penalty will be increased to Rs 1 lakh against Rs 50,000 earlier.

As per the latest guideline, according to TRAI, an operator will now be fined up to Rs 1 lakh for first non-compliance with benchmarks in a quarter compared to the previous penalty of Rs 50,000.

Cellular operators’ service is benchmarked on nearly 15 parameters that come under two heads – technical and customer care services.

TRAI said that non-compliance with the benchmark of the same parameter in two or more consecutive quarters will result in a penalty up to Rs 1.5 lakh and a fine up to Rs 2 lakh can be levied for each consecutive contravention thereof.

In addition, TRAI has clarified that the amount of fine will go back to Rs 1 lakh if the operator has met the benchmark of the parameter between two defaulting quarters.

IANS reported that TRAI will release new regulatory guidelines addressing call drops soon.

As per today’s guidelines on compensation, only three calls per day per customer will be refunded by the telecom operator. Telecoms such as Bharti Airtel, Reliance and Idea will end up paying at least Rs 2.3 crore, Rs 1.9 crore and Rs 80 lakh, respectively, taking into account that only 10 percent of their subscriber base face only one call drop a day. Airtel, Reliance and Idea Cellular have 23.29 crore, 10.99 crore and 8.33 crore subscribers, respectively.

Why TRAI failed to manage telecoms

Both TRAI and DoT secretary earlier admitted that telecoms need to invest more in infrastructure to avoid call drops in select cities. TRAI, acting upon significant complaints from mobile phone users, failed to influence Indian telecoms such as Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone, Reliance Communications, etc. to spend more on telecom networks to improve QoS.

Both COAI and AUSPI, two leading telecom industry associations, claimed that closure of cellular towers in key telecom circles was the main reason behind the call drops that impacted most part of the country. In fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the stakeholders to solve the call drop issue. With the latest regulation, TRAI did not even take care the demands of mobile subscribers. They need high quality mobile services.

Indian telecoms earlier argued that TRAI has failed to appreciate the actual genesis behind call drops – spectrum changeover issues, municipality sealing, Right of Way issues, evolving technologies etc.

Telecom network operators have claimed that they made massive investments to run their business in India. But the reality is that Indian telecoms invested negligible amount on networks as compared with their counterparts in China or U.S.

Indian mobile operators also argued that there is no corresponding compensation mechanism available for them in the event of recurrent issues such as non-availability of sites due municipality etc., delayed allocation of spectrum by licensor, non-issuance of equipment import approvals, delay in Right of Way approvals, no resolution on interference issues, etc.

Telecoms said that the method of determining whether the call drop is due to poor network or any other technical issue itself is a question mark.

Due to pressure from DoT, TRAI and the other government agencies, sealing of telecom towers in Delhi has come down. But Delhi phone users say there is no change in the quality.

Result of drive test

TUV SUD has conducted drive test on behalf of TRAI for Aircel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone, Airtel, Reliance (GSM) and Tata Docomo (GSM) in Mumbai covering locations suggested by TRAI in the month of September 2015 and June 2015.
Result of TRAI drive test in Mumbai
The drive test results revealed that there was no considerable improvement in the performance of the telecom service providers as they are still showing the non compliance performance in respect of the most of the parameters. The service providers have improved performance for some of the parameters as compared to the previous drive test results but are still not complying with the benchmark, said TRAI.

Baburajan K
[email protected]