New Delhi: Asserting that the problem of call drops has begun to improve, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday said mobile operators on their own are showing the shortcomings but appeared to rule out any penalty as of now.
While naming telecom operators like Airtel, Aircel, Idea, Vodafone and Tata Tele among those having contained the problem, he said nearly half of the defective mobile sites have been fixed to address the menace.
Addressing a press conference on the issue of call drops, the Minister said a total of 34,460 mobile sites were found to be defective, out of which 16,962 were fixed in the third week of September.
As per the data shared by the Minister, 17,498 sites still needed to be repaired across country.
As per the data, Aircel’s network accounted for the maximum number of sites found to be defective, with 5,741 cells, about one-third of the total, that needed to be fixed.
Idea Cellular is required to fix 3,468 cells, Vodafone 3,344, Bharti Airtel 2,159, Tata Teleservices 1,881, Telenor 530, Reliance Communications 33, Videocon Telecommunications 46, Quadrant 81 and Sistema Shyam Teleservices 65.
The operators have said they would try to fix these defective cells by next month, the Minister said, while adding that the companies feel they must resolve the problem as it was a matter of credibility for them.
Without giving any direct answer on penalising the erring telecom operators, Prasad said that the regulator TRAI was working on a framework about incentives and disincentives linked to call drops and the government would consider it as and when the recommendations come in.
TRAI has said that the recommendations can come in by mid-October, although operators have been opposing any move to compensate the consumers on the basis of call drops.
The Minister said that the licence agreement of mobile operators also provides for imposition of penalties on service quality parameters, but that option will be exercised as a last option.
“We started monitoring in April. They (telecom operators) came on their own to show the shortcomings. I have directed my Department to conduct sample survey on their claim,” Prasad said.
He added that private operators are cooperating with the government to address call drop problem and there has been improvement due to various steps taken by Telecom Ministry.
“The call drop rates for Bharti Airtel were varying from 3.01 to 17.77 per cent in Delhi which has been reduced to 0.1 to 2.96 per cent… Aircel call drop has been reduced from 3.18-16.21 per cent to 0.02-0.49 per cent in some of the areas of Delhi,” Prasad said.
He further said call drop on Idea Cellular network has been reduced from 3.55-7.08 per cent to 0.3-1.38 per cent, Vodafone has been able to contain it in the range of 0.3-2.15 per cent and Tata Teleservices in 0.03-2.27 per cent.
The call drop problem has become acute in the last 4-5 months and even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has voiced serious concern over the issue.
The government recently stepped up pressure on mobile operators to check call drops asking their promoters including Anil Ambani, Kumar Mangalam Birla and Sunil Mittal to directly intervene in the matter. It had also warned that the companies would face penal action if they fail to take corrective action.
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