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Telecom Service Providers Told to Improve Quality of Service

Department OF Telecom has told telecom service providers to improve quality of service and for this purpose focus should be on improving capital expenditure and optimize resource utilization. At a meeting held under the chairmanship of Secretary, Department of Telecom with CEOs of Telecom Service Providers various issues related to call drops were discussed.A presentation was made by the industry claiming to have made investment of Rs.1,34,000crores out of which Rs.24,000 crores was for capital equipment with a CAPEX to revenue ratio of 73% against global coverage of 12-18%. DoT mentioned that Rs.1,10,000crores was towards the spectrum acquired through auction and can’t be counted towards investment for reinforcement of infrastructure by way of installing towers and base stations. If this expenditure on spectrum is taken out, it is only about 13%. It was stressed that the operators need to augment the infrastructure by way of additional towers and base stations in order to address the issue of call drops and Quality of Service

The operators also pointed out that there is a technological shift in the usage spectrum whereby now more data is being used as compared to the voice and there is a shift from 2G to 3G/LTE services. They also mentioned that call drop is a worldwide phenomenon whenever such transformation takes place. It was mentioned by DoT that when such transformation is taking place, it is expected that the telecom companies should take necessary steps in advance to meet the challenge. They must optimally allocate the resources for various services in all the frequency bands i.e. 800 MHz/900 MHz/1800 MHz/2100 MHz/2300 MHz so that customers do not suffer. Thus, the contention of change in traffic pattern and technology migration as a major reason for call drops is not tenable.

During their presentation, service providers requested to declare the telecom services and the infrastructure as essential services expedite spectrum harmonization, adopt uniform rules for towers and Row across the country, permit installation of sites on government land/ building and cantonment areas apart from additional spectrum being made available for mobile services. It was informed that operators are already aware of the fact that Hon’ble Minister has addressed Chief Ministers and Minister of Urban development to allow installation of towers on Government lands and buildings. Subsequently, consequent to the meeting of Secretary(T) with Secretary, Urban Development, it has been decided in principle to allow installation of mobile towers in government building subject to technical feasibility and the operators should provide in-building solution for better coverage. Some State Governments have already finalised policy for towers in their State. The projected acute shortage of towers due to non-cooperation of State Government and local bodies can’t be accepted as a reason for the call drops in last 4-6 months as this problem has assumed severe proportion during this period. There is an immediate requirement of rigorous optimization exercise to be taken up by all service providers. The operators assured that they will take necessary action for optimization of network and will do it on regular basis which will improve the performance of worst affected cells to some extent even without addition of new equipment

With regard to the request for harmonization of frequencies with Defence, it was assured that Wireless Adviser is already in discussions with the operators on this issue and substantial progress has been achieved in this direction. Close cooperation of Telecom Service Providers is also required in this exercise. It was pointed out that one operator has indicated during such exercise that they will take approximately six month time for harmonization of frequencies with Defence which is likely to be conducted during the five-phase operations. This kind of time frame is unacceptable and it is necessary to expedite the process by one and all. With reference to change of frequencies consequent to expiry of licences in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkota, it was pointed out that operators were aware of the frequency spots which were being allotted to them and they should have taken all necessary steps to replace repeaters/base stations, etc. wherever required. The operators were also advised that they may carry out this exercise in advance for various other circles where licensees are going to expire later this year.

After detailed deliberations on the subject, Secretary, Telecom emphasized that Government is already extending all possible support on the issue of dispelling of unfounded fears from EMF radiation and other issues raised by TSPs. He further asked the TSPs to take various actions on priority basis for improving QoS which inter-alia includes deployment of additional sites to ensure optimum coverage, use of geo-spatial tool for micro-analyzing time-spatial performance, real time network optimization and load balancing, deployment of separate Network quality enhancement team, installation of low power small cells to address coverage holes, use of in-building solutions for indoor coverage apart from commensurate investment in Network up-gradation for ensuring QoS etc.