Stung by the recent Supreme Court order quashing its regulation mandating mobile operators to provide monetary compensation to consumers for call drops, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Wednesday said that it is going to seek from the government the power to levy financial penalty on operators.
Briefing reporters over the results of an independent drive test conducted in Delhi/NCR in May, which showed an increasing incidence of call drops, Trai secretary Sudhir Gupta said, “We will write to the department of telecommunications today for an amendment in the Trai Act to give us more power.”
Though the Supreme Court had not quashed the call drop regulation questioning its power, the process through which it arrived at the decision, which it termed as arbitrary and non-transparent and in violation of principles of natural justice, the Trai wants the power to levy penalties, something which it does not have currently, as it feels it will give it more teeth in terms of dealing with mobile operators.
It is not that in the past Trai did not collect fines from the operators for not meeting the quality of service parameters, but it was never termed as a penalty. It was called financial disincentive.
Further, the operators paid the fines because Trai has powers to chargesheet them in a civil or criminal court for disobeying its directions.
Any amendment to the Trai Act would require a parliamentary approval. However, if done, it risks opening a Pandora’s box, since all past fines would be become illegal.
It is not the first time that Trai has sought such powers from the government. In 2010, under the chairmanship of JS Sarma, it had proposed that the powers of a civil court be conferred upon it.
On the drive tests conducted in May, Trai said that all 3G networks, 2G networks of Bharti Airtel and MTNL, and CDMA network of Reliance Communications have shown degradation in performance compared with previous drive tests. In fact, state-owned MTNL failed on all network-based quality of service parameters.
“Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance, Aircel and Idea need to further improve the call drop rate performance. The CDMA operators and MTNL need to improve across all parameters, in order to offer acceptable levels of service,” Trai said. “In case of call drop rate, most of the operators except Reliance 2G and Vodafone 3G are not meeting the threshold of the benchmark,” Trai added.
Quality of service norms permit a call drop rate up to 2%.