In spite of all the cheers over the news that India may upstage US as the second largest cell-phone subscriber-base, Amol Dalvi of Mumbai is a frustrated mobile user. His service provider is not able to provide drop-free calls and voice clarity.
"I never get the network at home in Malad. And since I work out of home, this really hurts," Dalvi says.
Millions of users like him will continue to experience problems of this kind, according to a report by inCode, a technology consultancy subsidiary of VeriSign, a California based company that provides Internet security.
The study says that despite introduction of new technologies like 3G combined with multi-band, multi-radio access, complex handsets and outdated roaming solutions have made mobile services less reliable.
3G in India is yet to take off and is stuck due to lack of adequate spectrum. It will allow telecom operators to provide services like gaming, live sports or movie downloads. The report says that one of the main reasons for bad service quality is low investment in network infrastructure.
Another recent research by IDC, a technology research company pointed out the quality of mobile services issue. According to the survey mobile users were unhappy with the customer care services provided by their telecom service providers. The average waiting time to speak to a customer care executive was 5.7 minutes, the highest across the last three years. Mobile users of all service providers, without an exception, saw an increase in their waiting time to reach their customer care executive this year, noted the survey.
Once they got through to their customer service executives, another set of issues like knowledge level and promptness of the customer care executive did not meet their satisfaction levels.
Industry observers say that one of the main reasons for this is that telecom companies' have not upgraded their infrastructure in comparison to the number of subscribers they add every month. India adds about 8 million telecom customers every month.
"It appears that service providers are not upgrading their infrastructure to match their growing customer base. This needs greater attention and implementation of a well defined customer care programme is likely to benefit service providers ", says Shailendra Gupta, senior manager, consumer research, IDC India.
To address the problem telecom companies are taking initiatives such as sharing of telecom towers. Recently, Bharti, Vodafone Essar and Idea formed a telecom tower company that would enable sharing of 70,000 towers across India. According to company officials, by sharing towers Indian consumers would benefit through improved network reach and quality, more choice and greater access to mobile services across the country. Competitor Reliance communications hived off its tower company business a few months back and has aggressive plans to increase its reach across India.
The report adds that outdated cellular roaming services, which are charged in excess of 100 per cent when compared to local rates need to be looked into. Telecom companies need to be aware that alternative technologies like 'calling cards' and free services like skype and yahoo messenger that runs on voice over Internet Protocol are eating into telecom companies' revenues.