Frustrated by frequent call drops in the middle of conversations? You may soon be reimbursed money for the inconvenience. The government is looking to order operators to return the money charged for the dropped calls or throw in extra airtime to compensate for deficient services.Call drops have been a recurring irritant for Indian mobile phone users, who have emerged as the world’s second-biggest market, behind only China. While low call rates and fast adoption of internet on mobile have marked the journey of the Indian phone market, service quality has been deteriorating over the years”The idea is to ensure that a customer is not made to pay for a deficiency on the part of an operator,” a key official in the telecom ministry told TOI. The ministry is “working aggressively” on the issue, especially as call drops have become a regular phenomenon in choked networks of metros, the official added.
“I would be a millionaire if I am reimbursed money for dropped calls by my operator,” Vishnu Mathur, a harried mobile customer who lives in east Delhi said when told about the impending proposal.Telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has been raising the issue of call drops time and again. “Call drops need to be minimized. Private operators need to reinforce their mechanism. I have directed officials in the telecom department to work on a disincentive architecture (for the operators) to address the issue,” Prasad said while speaking at a conference on completion of one year of the NDA government.
The official source said the ministry also plans to rope in sectoral regulator Trai on the issue. “We plan to find a solution soon. It could be as early as the next six months,” the source said, without giving further details. Surprisingly, Trai’s customer satisfaction survey related to mobile services has failed to recognize the issue of call drops and poor broadband connectivity.However, experts say that tackling the issue by making operators pay for it may not be easy. “There needs to be a mechanism in place to recognize when a call is dropped due to network issues. Also, there should be a way to confirm this so that the customer is aware of the deficiency,” a telecom industry expert said.
An official of a leading mobile operator said that the companies can incorporate a mechanism to measure the rate and number of call drops. “It can be configured into the network. However, this will be done only if there is a regulation on the same,” the official said, requesting anonymity.Mobile operators blame the lack of adequate spectrum and problems related to erection of mobile towers for the growing network congestion and call drops. “We face a stiff resistance in installation of mobile towers. Also, we need more spectrum to handle the additional traffic on mobile networks,” Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal said.However, some operators have decided to recognize the issue, albeit quietly, and are compensating customers for dropped calls. Anil Ambani’s Reliance Communications doesn’t charge a customer for the outgoing mobile pulse where the call gets disconnected due to network problems. Similarly, Uninor gives a minute of free talk time within 24 hours for disconnections during a call.