NEW DELHI: The telecom department has directed top carriers to complete installation of additional towers by March as per their commitments made last fiscal, to improve the call drop situation, and noted that Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel have committed to invest a total of Rs74,000 crore in the next financial year to expand infrastructure.
The department of telecommunications (DoT) also directed telcos to fast track tower installations in Delhi, Mumbai, and areas of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, that are worst affected by call drops, telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan told reporters, after a meeting with senior executives of mobile phone operators.Read more ↓
“We have said that by March all the commitments they had made regarding putting up extra towers, small cells and towers on wheels, should be completed,” said telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan, on Tuesday after holding more than an hour-long meeting with representatives from Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular, Reliance Jio, Aircel, Telenor and others.
“Bharti Airtel said that they have invested Rs 16,000 crore on infrastructure and will be spending another Rs 24,000 crore. Reliance Jio has said that they will invest Rs 50,000 in installing 1 lakh towers in coming fiscal,” she said. Others such as Idea Cellular and Vodafone have also committed to increasing mobile towers in their network.
Further, carriers have been mandated to closely monitor the quality of services from the highest levels in the companies, share towers and to ensure that areas like hospitals, highways and domestic and international airports face lower call drops.
The telcos will meet the secretary on a monthly basis on call drops, as DoT will monitor call drops even more closely along with the telecom regulator. The next meeting will include analysis based on call drop rates derived by data collected on the basis of the new rules issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in October last year. Telcos are submitting their data to the regulator, which should bring out its report by the month end.
Sundararajan added that the department will also look into the problems raised by the industry, such as of non-availability of towers, non-execution at the ground level despite adequate permissions, non-certified handsets and illegal repeaters, which were collectively leading to calls being dropped.
“Telecom operators said that call drop problem in mobile phones without Global Conformity Framework (GCF) certificate is more, compared to the certified devices,” Sundararajan said, while adding that the issue of 3,000 illegal repeaters within Delhi which were causing interference in signal connectivity, will be looked into by the vigilance arm of DoT.
The secretary’s meeting with telcos comes on the back of rising instances of call drops over the last few months as telcos were not investing in new technology even as they moved around ground level equipment. Over last year, DoT had asked telecom firms to adopt immediate measures to improve call quality including setting up additional mobile towers across the country.
During the Tuesday meeting telcos presented their analysis of call drops, which showed that the traditional call drops were stable, “with a distinct improvement post December due to increased investment in infrastructure and using data analytics.” But other problems like fading of voice call had risen due to various issues, including some mobile phones not complying with required certification norms.
Carriers also revealed that data usage grew 6-7 times and continued to grow 20-25 percent every month, a surprise 2X growth in voice traffic has increased load on networks.
“Besides, telecom operators said that there is new unique phenomenon they have found in India where around 400 callers use a mobile tower during same time whereas in countries like China and others this average is in the range of 200-300. They are now discussing with equipment makers to handle this kind of issue,” Sundararajan said.
Telcos added that they expected an improvement in call drops rates now that government permissions for setting up mobile towers have come in, for instance in defense areas, and for installations on metro towers besides small cells, work for which had begun.
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