The penalty will be for call drops in the last concluded quarter.
Telecom regulator TRAI is considering stiff penalties on operators for call drops, a menace that has acquired significant proportions in metros. The penalty will be for call drops in the last concluded quarter, the first time new rules, which became effective October 1, will apply.
The regulator is currently in the process of completing an evaluation exercise, according to an official familiar with the development, who declined to quantify the likely penalties but added: “This would most likely be a heavy one. The situation seems to have gone from bad to worse.”
TRAI Chairman R.S. Sharma said action would be taken as needed.
“The data on quality of services has come from the companies. It will be published today or tomorrow. You will come to know which all companies are meeting the norms and which are not. We don’t go by empirical or anecdotal evidence. We will analyse the data and whatever action is due as per law shall be taken,” Sharma told Moneycontrol.
The penalty could singe private operators other than Reliance Jio Infocomm. These include Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular. They will also affect state-owned companies Bharat Sanchar Nigam and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam.
TRAI does its own ‘drive tests’ also to check call drops and other parameters under quality of service. It also does its own audit, comparing the results thrown by drive tests against the data submitted by the companies. Another source said the companies’ own data had revealed a significant deterioration in the quality of service.
The Rs. 1 lakh-Rs. 5 lakh penalty under the revised rules is at least double of the Rs. 50,000 that used to be imposed earlier for every violation. The penalties rise by half for violation in the second consecutive quarter and double for non-compliance in the next three-month period. The fine is capped at Rs. 10 lakhs.
The revision led to the regulator measuring call drop at the level of a mobile tower as against the earlier practice of evaluating it at the circle level. The new norms thus made the measurement more stringent and more granular, taking into account temporary issues as well as the geographical spread of the network while doing away with averages.
As per revised norms, 90 per cent base transceiver station or mobile site in a telecom circle should not drop more than 2 per cent of the calls 90 per cent of the time. For peak hours, the norm was relaxed to 3 per cent call drops.
The issue of call drops has been burning for last three years with little to show on the ground despite several rounds of meetings between the department of telecommunications, the operators and various other stakeholders. The situation in metropolitan cities like Mumbai and Delhi is acute with several areas -- commercial and residential -- reporting 2G or zero signals including in areas where the companies claim to run 4G services.
Even as the government blames the companies for not investing enough in infrastructure, it has done little to make the companies comply, much of that job being left to TRAI to do. The companies blame housing societies in cities and the municipalities for not allowing them the right of way to erect their towers. The association bodies in the housing colonies don’t allow towers near their abodes due to concerns over radiation from towers.With consumer concern and QoS as its guiding philosophy, TRAI has done its bit to discipline the companies. In 2015, it ordered the companies to pay a consumer Re. 1 for every call drop, up to a maximum of Rs. 3 in a day. The law, effective January 1, 2016, was struck down by the Supreme Court in its May 11, 2016, verdict.