Trai seeks Act amendment to penalise call drops

02 June 2016

With a majority of telecom operators failing to meet the call drop benchmark in the latest test, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has sought an amendment in the Trai Act to enable it to impose penalties on erring firms.

Trai conducted a test drive in Delhi on quality of mobile service from 3-6 May. The results, released on Wednesday, show all operators barring Reliance Communications (RCom) in second-generation services (2G) and Vodafone in 3G had failed to meet the call drop rate (CDR) benchmark of two per cent.

Trai monitored the performance of Airtel, Aircel, Idea, Vodafone, RCom, MTNL, Tata and MTS across 2G, 3G and CDMA services, with drive test routes covering approximately 600 km.

''All operators are performing below the CDR and it has degraded further compared to previous tests,'' said Trai advisor Robert A Ravi.

Trai plans to ask the department of telecommunications (DoT) for amending the Trai Act as mentioned earlier. ''As the Supreme Court in its judgement had observed, Trai does not have the power to impose such a (call drop) penalty. We will write to DoT today for an amendment in the Act," said the regulatory body's secretary, Sudhir Gupta.

Last month, the SC struck down the compensation policy for call drops sought to be levied by Trai, under which operators were liable to pay Re1 for every call drop to a user, with a maximum of three a day, effective from 1 January. An SC bench termed this ''arbitrary, unreasonable and non-transparent'' (See: Trai suffers blow as SC strikes down call drop penalty). Rajan S Mathews, director general, Cellular Operators Association of India, said the result was "sort of expected''.

''Trai did the test drive in a subset of New Delhi. We already knew there was a network issue in South Delhi, Lutyens' Delhi and on the airport road. In some areas, the quality of service is not that good but in other areas, it is on par with Trai's benchmark,'' he said. "If the entire Delhi had been considered, the performance of operators would have come out as average."

He attributed below par performance to lack of towers in the areas where the test was conducted. "It is difficult to get access to government land or defence land to set up cell towers. Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has shut down some of our towers in select areas," said Mathews. "We are talking to DoT, the defence ministry, urban development ministry, MCD and New Delhi Municipal Council to allow us access to these lands."

R S Sharma, the Trai chairman, said: "While the other parameters have improved, the call drop situation hasn't." Other parameters tracked by Trai during the test included radio frequency coverage, call set-up success rate, voice quality, blocked calls and the carrier to interference ratio.

Mathews said the operators would continue to work on improving their service.

The Trai test also found Aircel's radio link time out technology (RLT) much higher than its peers. RLT is the threshold time period before a call is dropped due to poor connectivity. "In the case of the network of Aircel, the RLT value in most of the cells had increased. If RLT values are assumed to be 40 in the case of Aircel, its present call drop rate of two per cent would increase to approximately 5.8 per cent," the Trai report said.

However, Mathews said, "This is an acceptable practice across global GSM players."

Pesky calls
Meanwhile, to curb unsolicited commercial communications, Trai has launched a mobile app for filing complaints against pesky calls and SMSs from telemarketers.

"The application is available on Android and will be soon launched for Apple iOS. It will ease filing of complaints and also help us in monitoring action taken by telecom operators on complaints," said Trai member Anil Kaushal.

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