Telcom operators seek uniform tower policy to tackle call drops

  • M Rajendran, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 17, 2015 21:02 IST

Telecom operators on Monday said they need a clarity on what the government expects from them and demanded a uniform national telecom tower policy in order to address the problem of call drops.

Giving a clear indication they will not own up any responsibility on call drops, the three organisations - Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI) and Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA) - put their focus on the lack of cellular telephone sites and right of way concerns.

"Operators have committed more than Rs. 1,34,000 crore in 2014-15 and rolled out 70,000 sites in last months. However, we need one lakh sites more," said Himanshu Kapania, chairperson of COAI and CEO of Idea Cellular Ltd.

Kapania pointed to the unabated dismantling of towers saying since January 2015, about 2000 sites in eight cities have been brought down and more than 7,000-10,000 sites have been locked or shut down for various reasons. Further 12,000 sites are not acquirable.

"Low spectrum per subscriber is also a major problem. There is a need for additional spectrum and harmonisation of spectrum," added Kapania.

Except Kerala and Assam, no other state government follows the guidelines stipulated by the department of telecommunications (DoT) for installation of mobile towers, operators said.

"It is a bizarre allegation that operators are deliberately dropping calls to add to revenue," said Gopal Vittal, Airtel's managing director and CEO.

"We need public buildings to set up towers [in order] to improve the services. In 20 years, we do not have a policy on cell towers. We need a law to resolve call drop issues," added Sunil Sood CEO of Vodafone India.

The DoT had asked mobile operators to report the steps taken to check this menace on a weekly basis and wants them to improve service immediately in the worst-affected areas, including in and around its headquarters in New Delhi.

They have been asked to improve coverage in and around Sanchar Bhawan area by August 20, while other places in the national capital where the situation has been found to be worse.

In a meeting called by the DoT on July 13, the mobile service providers were also pulled up for frequent call drops and other network coverage-related issues in various parts of Bihar such as Gaya, Patna, Bhagalpur and Darbhanga. All mobile service providers were also directed to file a report of their network performance comprising call drops and efforts made by them for the month of July by evening of August 16.

There has been a surge in incidents where mobile users are either unable to complete their calls or voice from only one side gets through. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has found a two-fold jump in call drops on 2G networks and by 65% on 3G networks in a one-year period.

Industry average of call drop incidents at the end of January-March 2015 period was 12.5%, compared to 6.01% at the end of March 2014 on 2G networks.

According to norms, call drops in worst case scenario should not be more than 3% of total calls made on a network.

(With agency inputs)

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