The telecom industry on Friday assured the government that it is doing its best and will continue its efforts to check the menace of call drops even as the latter promised that it will try to resolve all the teething issues like right of way, checking illegal repeaters, and cross-border interference in signals.
At a meeting with JS Deepak, secretary at the department of telecommunications (DoT), CEOs of mobile operators said that they will accelerate and redeploy their planned capex and other resources to check call drops. The meeting, which comprised Gopal Vittal of Bharti Airtel, Sunil Sood of Vodafone India, Himanshu Kapania of Idea Cellular along with Rajan Mathews of the Cellular Operators Association of India, among others, was the first between the DoT and the industry bigwigs since the Supreme Court quashed the Re 1 charge the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had mandated the operators to pay to the consumers for every dropped call.
For perspective, every year the industry spends around Rs 52,000 crore in networks, towers, and the like for the current year, also it will spend the same as committed earlier. It puts up around 50,000-100,000 towers each year depending upon the demand. On Friday, it assured the DoT that it will accelerate and redeploy this, meaning that of the Rs 52,000 crore of capex it would spend Rs 12,000 crore over the course of the next three months in putting up 60,000 towers of the 100,000 it plans to put during the year. Of this, 100 new sites will be put in Delhi during the next three months.
“The mobile operators have promised to add 60,000 new cell sites where they need to improve their quality of service,” Deepak said after the meeting, adding that the problem of call drops required a more sophisticated solution and that there was no magic bullet to resolve it.
Mathews, director-general of COAI, said that the industry told the secretary about the other factors leading to call drops like interference in signals from illegal use of repeaters, especially in Delhi and Mumbai, from signals across the border and from the freshly allocated 800 MHz spectrum that interferes with the lower band of 900 MHz band. He said that the industry also raised the issue of a right of way policy, which enables it to put up infrastructure with ease and speed. Mathews said that the secretary agreed to look into all these issues.
Another positive development of Friday’s meeting was the statement by Deepak that he personally was of the view that jailing company executives for call drops was not a right solution. This assumes significance because Trai has just moved a note to DoT seeking amendment in the Trai Act to give it powers to penalise operators to the extent that erring company officials can be sent to jail.
“Business as usual cannot happen. I am not sure penal power will be one and final solution to this. In my personal opinion I do not agree that for every call drop a person has to be sent to jail. That’s my personal view. It is more sophisticated and more difficult. But we will take a view on what Trai has said,” Deepak said.