TRAI Weighs Call Drop Penalties

Most consumers likely assume some of their mobile device calls will be terminated unexpectedly. That is why people have developed an unwritten protocol for dealing with such events: call back.

In India, the designed performance for mobile network dropped calls is two percent, or less, in any given monthly period.

It appears to some observers that this limit is rather often violated. Tests conducted by the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India found call drop rates as high as 17 percent, and often in the dour percent to five percent range.

So TRAI is looking at possible new penalties on mobile service providers whose networks routinely violate the quality of service rules.


Most people likely assume the service provider is at fault for excessive or bothersome call drops, and that is true: the network operator controls design of the network. So more investment, one way or the other, is going to happen.

No network ever is designed to handle any conceivable amount of traffic. Instead, networks are built statistically, to handle what we used to call demand “at the peak minute of the peak hour of the peak day.”

Demand in excess of that designed capacity will result in inability to use the network, temporarily.

But apps and devices, and demand from other users at peak hours also can cause call drops.

Still, mobile network dropped calls are mostly the result of network issues, ranging from radio coverage to radio interference between neighboring cells, capacity constraints, antenna issues or spectrum shortages.

Most of those issues are in turn can be remedied by installing more cell sites. The problem with that is the opposition to installation to cell towers, a common problem everywhere.

TRAI argues that since network infrastructure rose by 4.6 percent in 2013 to 2014, while  minutes of usage grew by 6.8 percent, that “investment has not kept pace with the usage.”

“Thus, prima facie, it appears that lack of investment in network infrastructure by the wireless access providers may be one of the main reasons for the problem of call drops,” TRAI argues.

So TRAI is considering new rules that compensate consumers for dropped calls, including credits of airtime or money.

One suggestion is that customers not be charged for calls that disconnect within five seconds, and not for the last increments of calls that drop after a session has been initiated (not charging for the last minute of a call, for consumer on per-minute billing, for example).  
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