When Pramod Saxena, a Delhi-based executive, opted for a 3G connection a month ago, he expected high-speed video-phone calls and faster downloads. What he got instead were call drops and a poorer voice quality.
Third-generation, or 3G, mobile services are off to a shaky start. Some operators are yet to launch their ware. Those who have either do not have networks in place or the facilities have not stabilised.
Vodafone, which was wooing audiences with Zoozoos during the World Cup, is yet to launch services in Delhi, while others such as MTNL and Bharti Airtel are suffering technical hiccups.
The conventional 2G networks offer data download speeds of around 114 kilobits per second (kbps). The 3G services start at 384 kbps even in mobile vehicles, while ordinarily offering 2Mbps (20 times as fast as 2G) for stationary or walking users. This enables services such as video calls, stock trading and online games on special handsets.
In Delhi, Reliance Communications (RCom) and Airtel started 3G services this year, two years after state-run Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL).
Tata Docomo offers 3G services in Mumbai.In Delhi and neighbouring towns, customers are complaining.
"Connectivity is so bad that when a customer is mobile, network disconnects frequently," said Vivek, a subscriber. The problem was the same across the country, said Saxena.
A BSNL official blamed it on inadequate facilities. "This is because private operators haven't invested enough in the networks," he said.
The 3G networks are laid over 2G networks, implying a shared infrastructure.
"This requires a robust radio frequency planning (designing of network) and a huge investment. The operators lack in both the aspects," the official said.
Trai chairman JS Sarma said the watchdog was probing the matter. "We’ll come out with quality check," he said. An Airtel spokesperson said teething troubles were common worldwide.
"Progressively, we're seeing all key elements of our network operation stabilise towards providing our customers a seamless experience both on 3G as well as 2G," she said.
While RCom did not reply to queries, a spokesperson for Tata Teleservices, which operates Tata Docomo, said, "We are facing no problems and we have not received any such feedback."