More reports on: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

COAI blames chipset in 4G LTE handsets for slowdown of networks

28 March 2017

Amidst a raging controversy over interconnection problems involving Reliance Jio Infocomm and established players in the mobile phone services market, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has blamed the use of some 4G LTE mobile phones, especially those with MediaTek chipset, for slowdown in network quality.

In a letter to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) COAI has cited a recent test conducted by individual telecom operators, which is said to have found that some 4G LTE mobilephones, especially those with MediaTek chipset, slow down network quality.

The Cellular Operators' Association of India, which includes Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio Infocomm, said there was a problem with 4G-enabled, dual-SIM smartphones using MediaTek's chipset, wherein the flow of data in the primary 4G SIM slot was hampered when a 4G LTE-only SIM was placed in the second slot, meant for 2G SIMs.

''It was observed that placing a SIM (which has only 4G LTE capability) in the number 2 slot (2G-only) significantly deteriorates the throughput of any other operator's 4G SIM present in the main slot, by as much as 40 per cent,'' reports quoted Rajan S Mathews, director general of COAI, as stating in the letter.

Mathews said all devices that have MediaTek chipsets are likely to experience this.

Smartphone makers must be mandated to fix the issue using an over-the-air upgrade in the next four weeks or withdraw such devices from the market, Mathews proposed in a letter to the secretary of the Department of Telecommunications and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.

COAI has asked the telecom regulator to intervene and mandate device testing and certification for compliance in Indian environments before launching any device in the Indian market.

The COAI has mentioned eight devices in the letter - Lenovo A7000 and K4 Note, Xiaomi Redmi 3S and Note 3, Motorola Moto G4, Oppo A35, Micromax Canvas E451 and Intex Aqua Craze.

''It is estimated that MediaTek is present in more than 35 per cent of smartphones in the country. Companies such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea have conducted these tests in many circles, including Gujarat, Kerala, Kolkata and Mumbai, and will be conducting more such tests in other circles, too,'' the COAI letter said.

The cellular operators' body has asked the TRAI to issue policy guidelines ''enforcing device and network standards such as radio attributes, cause-code handling procedures, minimum processor and memory requirements, etc.''

''Since these issues have a cascading impact on the data throughput experienced by millions of customers, an urgent policy intervention is solicited,'' Mathews added in the letter.

Trai officials, however, say there is no provision in the Trai Act to check standards of handsets / devices and the issue may be referred to the Department of Telecommunications.

According to CyberMedia Research, in 2016 calendar year, 4G constituted about 69 per cent of total 113 million smartphone shipments. In CY 2017, 4G is set to cover near 100 per cent of smartphones.

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