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DoT dials telcos on call drops, service quality issues; discusses interventions, measures needed

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Industry sources said that the DoT flagged consumer complaints on service quality at the meeting, and added that companies maintained that quality of service norms are being met. The industry also mentioned locations that are facing specific problems, due to signal interference or other factors.
| Photo Credit: BISWARANJAN ROUT

The telecom department on Wednesday met operators to discuss rising instances of call drops and service quality-related issues, as it deliberated on policy interventions that can be considered for improving call quality.

The meeting, which comes amid the rollout of massive 5G networks in the country, was chaired by Telecom Secretary K. Rajaraman and attended by telecom service providers, including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea.

The issue of interference from illegal boosters and Right of Way (RoW) challenges came up for discussion at the meeting, which lasted for almost two hours. Sources said that operators made a detailed presentation to the Department of Telecom on current levels of service quality against stipulated benchmarks.

DoT sources said that the department is taking a long-term view of the service quality-related matters and has asked players to identify problem areas, and make suggestions on policy interventions that could improve the call connectivity.

The Department of Telecom (DoT) is looking at legal frameworks and policy-level measures that can ensure a better quality of service.

Industry sources said that the DoT flagged consumer complaints on service quality at the meeting, and added that companies maintained that quality of service norms are being met. The industry also mentioned locations that are facing specific problems, due to signal interference or other factors.

The meeting assumes significance as improvement in telecom service quality is bound to cheer mobile customers, irked by call drops and patchy networks.

In September this year, Communications Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw indicated that telecom service quality parameters could be made more stringent and tighter, possibly to the extent of 3-4 times. 

The Minister had exhorted the industry, including telecom operators and infrastructure providers, to move “full steam ahead” on improving the quality of services in the country, now that a slew of reforms have been announced and more are being proposed.

“You can’t clap with only one hand, both hands are needed. It cannot be that just we keep doing, what you ask. You also have to do, what we ask,” Mr. Vaishnaw had said at that time.

“I will be requesting the Department (Telecom Department) to send a new consultation paper to TRAI for significantly increasing the quality of service parameters almost making 3X or 4X of what it is today, so whatever is the quality of service we are seeing, should now improve significantly,” Mr. Vaishnaw had said at an industry event on September 14.

While telecom regulator TRAI looks at service quality norms, the DoT’s parley with telecom operators was more to do with identifying problem areas and seeking inputs on policy measures and operational interventions that can facilitate better service quality in the country.

Citing an example of how policy interventions can help resolve some of the outstanding issues, sources said that since faster permissions for tower deployments can improve connectivity, ensuring Right of Way alignment at the field level would be important.

Similarly, there are many instances where illegal boosters deployed by people, have caused interference with main towers and led to inconvenience for consumers at large, and those cases are also being identified for corrective action.

DoT sources said that while things have improved, there is more ground to be covered.

Quality of Service benchmarks are under Trai’s purview but DoT has held informal discussions in the recent past with the regulator on the issue of service quality.

Asked if the pace of the 5G rollout and connectivity was a matter of concern, DoT sources said that Wednesday’s meeting was not in relation to 5G.

For 5G, where rollout has just begun, quality of service is “a work in progress”, they said, adding that it will be 5-6 months before measurements start.



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