Call drops deteriorated in May with the percentage inching up to 0.60% during the month compared with 0.52% in April 2018, latest Trai data show. This is against three consecutive months of good performance when the rate fell to 0.54% in February and remained flat at 0.52% during March and April, respectively.
Between April 2017 and November 2017, the call drop rate was in the range of 0.68-0.75%. The situation was poor in Delhi, Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, while it was considered bad in the Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chennai and Tamil Nadu circles. But during December 2017 to March 2018, operators ramped up networks, which brought the rate down from 0.71% in November 2017 to 0.52% in April.
The rate is still below Trai’s quality of service (QoS) norms. Call drop rate should not exceed 2% for 90% of telecom towers of an operator in a circle area for at least 90% days. Similarly, in the worst case or during a busy hour, it must not exceed the 3% benchmark for 97% of towers in a circle for 90% of days.
Call drop situation for all the top three operators — Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular — worsened in May compared with the previous month. Bharti’s rate grew from 0.63% in April to 0.65% in May, while Idea’s rose from 0.55% to 0.58% in the same period.
For Vodafone, the deterioration in call drop situation was much worse. Its rate climbed from 0.47% in April to 0.61% in May. Before this, the country’s second largest telecom operator’s call drop rate remained flat at 0.47% between February and April 2018.
Analysts attribute the rise in call drops to growing demand for data, which is leading to high concurrent usage. For instance, around 400 people are using a single base transceiver stations (BTS) in India against 200-300 in other countries. Also, data consumption has grown six times, while voice usage has more than doubled. The decline in data prices by around 95% in last two years, to as low as Rs 3-5 per GB, has resulted in multifold growth in video consumption.
India’s data consumption is among the highest globally at around 1.3 billion GB per month, which is clogging networks resulting in call drops and disruptions. It has more than 4.6 lakh telecom towers and 18 lakh BTSs, while the optical fibre coverage is around 14 lakh km.
“With a mobile broadband base of around 414 million and growing every month, the present infrastructure is clearly not enough and hence operators are investing on networks. Network expansion is the guiding theme for the next 12-18 months,” a top industry executive said.
Between July 2015 and February 2018, operators added around 6.66 lakh BTSs, which was in addition to 6.67 lakh BTS cells being optimised between July 2016 and December 2017.
The situation is expected to get better as operators including Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio have assured the government that they will be investing more than `74,000 crore during FY19 on network expansion.