With the backing of a Supreme Court order striking down sector regulator Trai's directive to telecom service providers to compensate consumers for call drops, operators have now offered to regulate themselves sans Trai.
Bharti Airtel, the country's largest telecom service provider, has proposed to voluntary implement a more stringent benchmark of 1.5 per cent for call drops against the 2 per cent prescribed by Trai.
Airtel will also contribute towards rural education Rs1 lakh for every 0.01 per cent increase in call drop rate beyond 1.5 per cent every month in each circle of operation, subject to a maximum of Rs100 crore per annum.
"Based on the calculation of the call drop rate during network busy hour on a monthly average, any amount calculated for exceeding the 1.5 per cent voluntary benchmark, subject to a maximum of Rs100 crore per annum, will be contributed by it towards the education of underprivileged children in rural areas," Airtel said in a statement.
The Supreme Court yesterday struck down Trai's regulation making it mandatory for telecom companies to compensate subscribers for call drops saying it was "manifestly arbitrary" and an "unreasonable restriction" on the fundamental rights of telcos to carry on the business (See: Trai suffers blow as SC strikes down call drop penalty). Airtel did not elaborate on how it proposes to compensate the customer above the 1.5 per cent call drop ceiling, but claimed the initiative as an industry first and one that underlines its commitment to serve its customers.
The company will report its quality of service data and the amount calculated on a quarterly/annual basis to ensure transparency.
"This self-regulation on quality of service further underlines our commitment to our customers despite the challenges of limited spectrum availability and acquisition of sites in urban areas," Gopal Vittal, MD & CEO (India & South Asia), Bharti Airtel said.
The company said it has decided to apply this standard benchmark across the country despite the constraint of difficult operating conditions in some areas, in particular hilly regions such as Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and North East.
Airtel has already rolled out Project Leap in November last year, under which it aims to invest Rs60,000 crore over the next three years, to transform its network.
"During FY16, Airtel invested over Rs15,000 crore across India towards deployment of over 88,000 sites. This is the largest network deployment anywhere in the world outside of China and reinforces our sharp focus on building a future ready network," Vittal added.
Airtel said its network covers 96 per cent of India's population and reaches 7,885 census towns and 779,919 non-census towns and villages.