More reports on: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

Telcos seek hold on call drop penalty till SC hearing

08 March 2016

Telecom operators on Monday approached the Telecom Regulator Authority of India, asking it not to enforce the regulation on compensation for call drops till the hearing in Supreme Court, scheduled for Thursday.

''The Supreme Court has directed the matters to be listed on 10 March for final disposal. In view of the above, and since the aforesaid matters being sub judice before the Hon'ble Court, we request you to keep your letter, dated 2 March, in abeyance,'' Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI) wrote to Trai.

Trai had asked all telecom service providers for a compliance report by Monday on the readiness in their networks for giving compensation to mobile users for call drops. Last week, the Supreme Court refused to grant interim relief to the operators while listing the case for hearing.

The operators had appealed to the Supreme Court after the Delhi High Court dismissed their petition against the Trai order.

In October last year, Trai had come out with the regulation which was to come into effect from 1 January, mandating that operators credit the user with one rupee for every dropped call, with a maximum of three per day.

The telcos had termed the regulation arbitrary and whimsical, contending that providing compensation to consumers amounted to interfering with the companies' tariff structure, which could only be done by an order and not by a regulation.

Trai had told the high court that consumers have a right to get compensated for call drops and this was different from the quality of service guidelines that cellular service providers have to follow under the licence conditions.

However, telcos had argued that even if consumers were facing problems, a regulation without statutory backing cannot be created.

According to analysts, if Trai's regulation is implemented, it could lead to a decline of seven-eight per cent in the operating income of telecom operators. However, companies that had a call drop rate of two per cent or less will see a negative impact of three-four per cent on their operating income.

Interestingly, the new regulation does not allow leeway of two per cent call drops, which means the regulator expects the network to be perfect and telcos to pay for every call drop.

Communications and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had recently said, ''During the past six months, nearly 20,000 sites have been added for 2G (second generation) services across India. Similarly, nearly 45,000 sites have been added for 3G services.''

The government has been asking operators to invest in infrastructure to improve the quality of services, while operators say spectrum crunch is a major problem for call drops scenario.

 Trai has been conducting service quality audits of networks on a regular basis since July and had published results of the most recent survey on 4 February. It conducted drive tests during December-January on selected routes of seven cities Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, Surat, Bhubaneswar and Indore and shared the findings with the telecom operators.

According to the report, most telecom operators, including MTNL, failed the tests.

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