Amid intense lobbying by mobile operators against giving more teeth to regulator TRAI, Telecom Secretary J S Deepak on Friday said penal powers cannot be the “one and final solution” for call drop and the firms have committed Rs. 12,000 crores to install new towers to check this problem. After its earlier direction asking telecom firms to pay consumer for each dropped call was quashed by the Supreme Court, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has asked the government to amend laws to give it powers for imposing fine of up to Rs. 10 crores on operators and jail term of up to two years for their executives. Also Read - Telecom service providers to set up 70,000 telecom towers to curb call dropsAlso Read - COAI calls for setting up more mobile towers to deal with call drops issue
Deepak said the government will “take a view” on TRAI’s demand for more powers, but in his “personal opinion” a person cannot be sent to jail “for every call drop”. Mobile operators, who had challenged TRAI’s earlier direction on call drops before Supreme Court, are opposed to this idea as well and have termed such powers as ‘draconian’. Responding to TRAI’s demand, Deepak said, “Business as usual cannot happen (after this). I am not sure penal power will be one and final solution to this. In my personal opinion I do not agree that for every call drop a person has to be sent to jail. That’s my personal view. It is more sophisticated and more difficult. But we will take a view on what TRAI has said.” Also Read - Call drops: TRAI seeks power to imprison or fine violators up to Rs 10 crore
The secretary said that mobile operators have committed to install 60,000 towers to improve service quality. “Government believes in the telecom sector. The quality of service must improve and industry has responsibility. They have committed 60,000 towers. Each tower cost about Rs. 20 lakhs which is around Rs. 12,000 crores. The industry will make this investment in next three months,” Deepak told reporters after his first review meeting with industry players.
Representatives of all telecom operators, including Bharti Airtel chief for India and South Asia Gopal Vittal, Vodafone India head Sunil Sood, Idea Cellular CEO Himanshu Kapania and Reliance Jio Infocomm MD Sanjay Mashruwala, were present at the meeting. Each operator presented his 100-day plan for improving service quality and raised issues hampering improvement in the networks.
Call drops have been a major concern for over a year now and the situation has failed to improve despite involvement at the top level for several past months. Most of the mobile service providers have frequently failed in quarterly sample call drop tests conducted by Trai but operators have contested the results saying that they comply with benchmark set by the regulator.