Putting an end to call-drop in India continues
The feud between local telcos and The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the country’s independent telecommunications business regulator, has been around long before the nation’s call drop problem hit the global headlines in 2015.
Sometime last year, these two entities had agreed to work together to finally put a conclusion to this grueling predicament. They had to, especially that one of their new prime minister’s initial promises was to put India at the center of the global tech industry through its “Digital India” campaign. But it only resulted to blaming and public disputes. The TRAI said that it had been the telco’s fault all along as it was their responsibility to upgrade their systems and align them with the growing consumer demand and changing connectivity market milieu.
Some telcos promised that they would accede to what the TRAI wanted. It resulted to left and right upgrading and partnerships with different companies. In the third quarter of 2015, Vodafone India announced that it tapped the services of San Diego-based network extender firm 5BARz International. The American firm’s revolutionary plug-and-play device, the first on the market that doesn’t need cabling and is using unique, patented radio frequency (RF) technology, promises to “extend” a mobile gadget’s signal, regardless if it is used in an enclosed space or on a moving vehicle. The partnership has been deemed successful by the company itself, to an extent that a new Tier One firm asked its services as well.
Still, some telcos are masking their shortcomings using a unique radio link timeout technology, according to TRAI. This provides a specialized digital displaying telling mobile users that the call is still connected when in truth it has been cut (or dropped) due to a weak connection. What’s more disappointing for the agency is that it results in higher bills for subscribers.
Last week, the TRAI issued a consultation paper to stakeholders on whether the internet and mobile services should be provided by telcos within building premises as most professionals spend most of their working time here. Inside-building-issues, said the agency, has remained largely unaddressed as most of their efforts have been put on infrastructure-related issues.
“It’s time, and it is implicit that telecom service providers (TSP) would require an access inside the building to install the telecom infrastructure or lay their cables,” a TRAI representative told the press.
The agency has been seeking ways to penalize telcos for its incompetency. However, the Supreme Court said that there’s no way to impose such a harsh penalty—10 crore and a maximum jail time of up to twenty-four months for telco executives—as it is blatantly illegal.
“We, therefore, hold that a strict penal liability laid down on the erroneous basis that the fault is entirely with the service provider is manifestly arbitrary and unreasonable,” said the SC in a report.
The problem has now gone beyond connectivity issues. Many sub-markets have been affected by the unsolved call-drop dilemma. App downloads, for instance, fell from 42 downloads on average to just 32 last May due to poor connectivity.