labels: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
TRAI upgrades quality standards for telecom services news
23 March 2009

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released new regulations on the standards of quality of service of basic telephone service (wireline) and cellular mobile telephone service, after reviewing the regulations issued in the year 2005.

''The review of quality of service regulations was needed to streamline the monitoring and measurement of quality of service parameters and frameworks to the regulatory enforcement, after considering the new inputs from the service providers and consumers and other stakeholders,'' TRAI said in a release.

The standards that are objective, measurable and verifiable are important to ascertain the quality of service being maintained by the service provider. The customer requirements and expectations have been given paramount consideration while reviewing the quality of service standards specified in these regulations, TRAI said, adding, ''In setting standards for quality of service, the parameters and benchmarks have been made meaningful to the consumers for enabling them to make an informed choice and also on the level of quality that they are getting.''

For achieving the quality of service benchmarks, service providers need to plan, optimize, upgrade, and augment the capacity of equipment/ network and other infrastructure such as billing and customer care etc, TRAI added.

For basic telephone service (wireline), TRAI has introduced a new parameter on point of interconnect congestion (POI), similar to that of cellular mobile telephone service. It has specified a time period of maximum 4 weeks for resolution of billing complaints.

It also specified the period of applying credit/waiver/adjustment to customer's account at a maximum of one week of resolution of complaint.

To assess the credibility of metering and billing in respect of charging of pre-paid customers, TRAI has prescribed  an `Answer to Seizure Ratio' (ASR) as an alternative to `Call Completion Rate' (CCR), wherever CCR cannot be measured and reported.

For monitoring and designing guideline for mobile telephone services, TRAI has specified that the benchmark for the parameter call drop rate has been revised from the existing benchmark of <3 per cent to = 2 per cent, thereby making it more stringent.

It has prescribed a new parameter ''worst affected cells having more than 3 per cent call drop rate'' to assess cell sites (Base Transceiver Stations) having excessive call drops.
The parameter on accumulated downtime for community isolation has been replaced with new parameter on network availability. The network availability to be assessed through two separate parameters namely ''BTSs accumulated downtime (not available for service)'' and ''Worst affected BTSs due to downtime''.

A new parameter has been prescribed to assess the metering and billing credibility in respect of charging of pre-paid customers. At present, only post-paid customers' billing credibility is assessed through Quality of Service Regulation.

The period within which refund/credit is to be applied to customers in case a billing complaint is upheld has been reduced from four week to one week.

The benchmark for the parameter ''Response time to the customer for assistance'' has been simplified and rationalised to provide for accessibility of call centre and response time by the operator.

Periodical survey on Quality of Service
The method of assessment of customer perception of service has been reviewed and a modified method of assessment has been specified. The survey will also now capture customer perception about the effectiveness of grievance redressal mechanism.

Provisions have been made for uniform record keeping procedures to be adopted by all the service providers. Publication of the quality of service provided by the service providers for information of the consumers has been specified.

The authority may publish comparative performance of quality of service provided by the service providers so that the customers may have an informed choice. This will induce healthy competition among the service providers for improving the quality of service and will create conditions for effective competition on quality of service. This will benefit the consumers in general with the improved quality of service.

These regulations, which will come into force with effect from 1 July 2009, will apply to service providers, including Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited, the TRAI release said.

Competition amongst the service providers in a mature market takes care of the quality of service to a great extent. However, the loyalty, in terms of subscribers' relationship with the access providers and perceived tolerance to bear with the quality of service, remains. Customer satisfaction is the major determining factor in the emergence of new services, designing of networks and setting standards.

In a competitive scenario, the need for service providers to provide quality service to attract and retain the customer should serve as an incentive to maintain high quality of service standards. Also for the effective competition in the market as well as for the promotion of consumer awareness and protection of consumer interest, access to accurate and meaningful information about service quality can have an effect on consumer choice.

However, in a fast developing market the quality of service has more linkages with accessibility involving robust infrastructure, appropriate capex commitment and affordability considerations. Therefore, the Authority has specified in these regulations that the performance by service providers in respect of achieving quality of service standards shall be transparent and put in public domain.

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TRAI upgrades quality standards for telecom services