Call drop issue: pay fine, says Trai, no, say telcos

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has written to telecom companies to ensure compliance with call drop regulations, effective 1 January, even though telecom service providers have reportedly decided to ignore Trai's directive to compensate subscribers for call drops as they have interpreted a Delhi High Court order in their favour.

The Delhi High Court last month directed Trai not to take any coercive action against telecom operators in the matter of compensation for call drops until the next date of hearing scheduled tomorrow.

Trai has maintained that the court hasn't stayed its order, which means telcos still need to abide by it.

Trai concluded after its meeting with the top management of telecom companies in October 2015 that its order on call drops will not be rolled back and is valid from 1 January 2016. It also notified operators to get their systems ready and updated to comply with the regulations.

Sudeep Sengupta, a spokesperson of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), agreed with the stand of AUSPI, the other body of cellular operators, and said till the court decides on this long-pending matter operators will not provide any compensation.

Top executives at leading telcos said they will wait for the court's decision which is scheduled for next hearing on 6 January on the subject because the matter has financial and other implications.

The telecom associations had filed a petition in the Delhi High Court and sought for quashing of Trai's 16 October ruling which made it compulsory for telecom service providers to pay subscribers Re1 per call drop experienced on their network, subject to a cap of three a day.

The overall financial impact of Rs54,000 crore per year on account of call drop compensation seems to be exaggerated and this amount is the basis of assumption by COAI / AUSPI's that 50 per cent of consumers would manipulate and misuse the regulation to get the maximum compensation of Rs3 a day from the operators. ''The Authority notes that such a sweeping presumption about the consumers is certainly not correct,'' Trai said.

Trai has said that maximum financial impact under this rule in a year would be around Rs800 crore if networks are not improved. ''The process for rationalization of imposition of penalty is under active consideration. It will be done very soon,'' said Union Minister for Telecom and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad.