Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular Could Lose 5% of Profits from New Call Drop Rules

Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular could lose up to five percent of their pre-tax profits as a result of new Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) rules about compensation to consumers for dropped mobile calls.

Under the new rules announced by TRA,, mobile users will get a compensation of Re 1 for every dropped call, starting on  January 1, 2016.

The thinking is that the penalties will be larger than actual earnings on many calls. Whether that is literally the case, or not, some of us might argue that billing costs will be a material factor.

In other words, the time and expense of verifying whether a specific refund is to be applied, and then applying the credit, will be larger than the profit margin on any specific call. Nor is it entirely clear that all “call drops” can be accurately measured.

Part of the difficulty is determining when a “dropped call” has occurred. That is a judgment call, to some extent.

The reason is the definition used by mobile operators is very different from what a customer understands as a dropped call, said Kartik Raja, founder and managing director of Phimetrics Technologies.

“When I can’t hear you and the line just goes mute, but my phone shows that the call is still on, from a network point of view it is not a call drop,” he said. “For the network, only when they receive a message saying the call is dropped, it is counted as a call drop.”

Phimetrics conducted a study of telecom voice services, which began by defining a dropped call from a customer’s point of view rather than use a telecom company’s definition.

Using that method–when two users can’t hear each other for more than 10 seconds–the dropped call rates of two percent and three percent looked more like five percent and 15 percent, respectively.

"We consider this regulation as hard to implement in the current form and expect telcos to contest this ruling,” said Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

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