'Call Drops as Telcos not investing despite earning Rs 250 Cr a day': TRAI

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India today defended before the Supreme Court the decision to charge telecom companies for call drops alleging that a cartel of 4-5 telecom firms having a billion subscribers are making Rs 250 crore a day but not making investments on their network to improve services to check the menace.

“There is a cartel of four-five telecom companies having billion subscribers, who are making Rs 250 crore a day from outgoing calls. They have stupendous growth but they are making minimum investment on their network to improve the quality of service on their network to curb call drops”, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said.

“Consumers must get decent service. If you have a bus in which you can take 50 persons and if you overload it... this is why the problem is occurring. Various technologies are evolving if you are ready to invest the problems can be solved. Like in the western world there are no towers. For an orderly world you must invest. For them it is like I will invest minimum but will draw largest revenue. There was a 61 % increase in consumers last five years and 41 percent increase in revenue. Investment has not kept pace with increased consumers There is surge in revenue but no surge in investment”, said Rohatgi

Rohatgi also defended the penalty imposed by the regulator on the telecom firms, saying it will be around Rs 280 crore and not thousands of crore as was being claimed by the service providers. They are making around Rs one lakh crore a year from calls and the impact of penalty will be Rs 270-280 crore and not thousands of crore as claimed by them, he said.

Last week the Telcos on their part had said consumers who opt for inferior quality cell phones and grey market handsets are responsible for 36% of call drops and just seven per cent of instances can be attributed to us

“Thirty six per cent of call drops are consumer-related. If you get a phone from a grey market, calls will drop. Then your mobile has to be powerful enough to draw a signal, the tower may be far. Inferior quality of your mobile could be another reason,” senior lawyer Kapil Sibal had told the bench

Sibal was representing Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), a body of Unified Telecom Service Providers and 21 telecom operators, including Vodafone, Airtel and Reliance.

They have challenged the order of Delhi High Court that upheld the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) October 2015 mandate of making it mandatory for them to compensate subscribers for call drops. As per the order, telcos have to compensate consumers at the rate of `1 per dropped call, subject to a daily maximum of `3 per user. The charges were to take effect on January 1, 2016. Delhi HC upheld the legality of the charges on February 29.

Sibal said as per a survey nearly 67 per cent of call drops were due to signal failure, for which the network provider was not responsible, but it is attributable to a combination of factors like several tall buildings between your phone and the tower, jammers in high security areas and premises occupied by VVIPs, restrictions in border areas and a busy network. “These are several imponderables on which we have no control,” he said.