India’s telecom regulator on Friday slapped a penalty of one rupee for each call drop on service operators, cracking the whip to address a niggling problem plaguing a country with the world’s second biggest mobile subscriber base.
The penalty will come into effect from January 1 next year and will be limited to three call drops per day, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said in a notification.
The menace of call drops -- used to describe calls which get automatically disconnected due to network problems -- has become one of the biggest problems for the 500-odd mobile subscribers in the country in recent times, forcing even Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene in the issue.
Operators, however, blame the lack of spectrum and shutting down of a large number of towers over health concerns for the growing problem.
The Trai also asked operators to establish a system over the next two months to compensate for call drops.
Under the new rule, the telecom operator will have to send a message to the customer who made the dropped call within four hours and details of the amount credited to his account.
For postpaid customers, the details of the credit should be provided in the next bill.
Trai said the mandated regime would provide relief to customers to some extent and spur players to improve quality of service.
“We welcome it and we hope it will go a long way in addressing the concerns of consumers,” said telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Telecom operators, however, described the Trai move as “a wrong decision for a right cause”.
Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) said the regulation may force the industry to shell out about Rs 150 crore every day even if half of the consumer base in the country faces this problem.
“There are various provisions which the regulator has ignored. If there is a problem in network of the subscriber to whom the call is being made, then why should the company from whose network the call has originated be penalised?” Mathews questioned.
Mathews said call drops will remain a concern and pointed out that 350 towers have been sealed in Delhi in the last three weeks and 100 in Mumbai in the last 4-5 months.
After the Trai notification, Idea Cellular shares fell by 3.24% while Bharti Airtel was down 2.98% at the Bombay Stock Exchange.