Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today hardened his stand on the call drop penalty issue, saying if the service providers do their bit then government is ready to walk the extra mile, but the telecom companies must not keep passing the buck. Also Read - Government to offer free movies to new internet users in remote areas: ReportAlso Read - Assembled in India: IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad shows locally made Apple iPhone XR
“I am willing to walk ten steps, they (telcos) will have to walk 20 steps… but telcos need to organize their networks better and identify the gaps,” Prasad told industry captains at the ET Corporate Excellence awards. Also Read - Indian government considering monitoring internet through a centralized system
Stating that he has cleared many cobwebs on the policy front, he said, “As far as policies are concerned, I have cleared all the policies (stuck) for the last 10 years. Different things have been identified… we have also notified like spectrum trading and sharing. I have done my best.”
Wondering how suddenly telecom companies put up thousands of towers in a short span if local situation was not conducive to do as they have been claiming, he asked the telcos to realize their obligations clearly and do the needful.
“How is it that in only three months, 25,000 towers were put up? How is it that in Delhi alone they did over 2,000 plus in four months?” he asked. Operators need to organize their network, identify the gaps and publicly invest in the gaps, he said, adding that service quality is very important.
“While being the telecom minister, I am the minister for growth of telecom, I am also a minister for the consumer interest,” Prasad said.
Accusing the operators of passing the buck in the name of lack of spectrum and difficulty of walking through the maze of local norms, he said, “Enough spectrum is available, and more will be done. But sorry, any alibi is not acceptable. I am willing to walk ten steps, they will have to walk 20 steps.”
After the minister asked the TRAI to frame penalty norms for call drops, the regulator asked telcos to pay Re 1 for each call drop beginning January 1 with a cap of Re 3 a day. The operators challenged the TRAI order in the Delhi HC. The court is yet to give its final verdict on the TRAI order. TRAI sees a maximum of Rs 800 crore in annual payout.
The telecom regulator and the government have been blaming under-investment in network coverage as the main reason for call drops while industry blames it on the multilayer local laws and high cost of putting up telecom towers.