The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has told the Supreme Court that it would reconsider rules imposed last year which require operators to provide financial compensation to customers for dropped calls, on the condition that cellcos instead offer customers an equal number of free calls as an alternative means of compensation. The Economic Times cites Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi as saying that Telenor already has such a policy in place, albeit with the caveat that the free calls can only be used for on-net calls. ‘If the telcos agree that there will be no provisos of any kind and they are ready to give free calls for every call drop to the consumers, then we are open to looking into our regulations penalising them,’ Mr Rohatgi added. The official explained that the watchdog had been left with ‘no other option’ but to penalise cellcos, as operators had refused every other arrangement for compensating customers, including offering free calls and re-crediting timing.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, the regulations, which came into effect from 1 January 2016, oblige providers to pay customers INR1 (USD0.015) for each dropped call to a maximum of INR3 per day. Industry bodies the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and the Association of Unified Service Providers of India (AUSPI) challenged the rules, claiming that the TRAI does not have the authority to impose such requirements and warning that it could cost operators upwards of INR30 billion per month. After going through the lower courts, in March the matter was passed to the Supreme Court, which ordered the TRAI not to take any action against the nation’s cellcos until it has ruled on the issue.
For its part the TRAI has accused the nation’s cellcos of failing to invest in their networks to maintain service quality, claiming that they are ‘just interested in filling their coffers.’ On the other hand, mobile providers have stated that the issue is not as widespread as the TRAI has suggested and that where call drops are a problem it is not the fault of the providers, but local authorities. The cellcos complained that the arbitrary sealing of towers in certain cities, most notably Delhi, is limiting its ability to meet quality of service (QoS) standards.