New Delhi: Leading telecom operators, including Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, have committed to investing over Rs 74,000 crore to upgrade and expand their infrastructure to curb call drops, Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said on Tuesday.
"Telecom operators raised issue of non-availability of sites for installing mobile towers along with some other problems. "Bharti Airtel said that they have invested Rs 16,000 crore on infrastructure and will be spending another Rs 24,000 crore. Reliance Jio has said that they will invest Rs 50,000 crore in installing 1 lakh towers in the coming fiscal," Sundararajan told reporters after meeting senior officials of telecom companies.
Idea Cellular and Vodafone also committed to increasing mobile towers in their network.
As per data shared by telecom operators with the Department of Telecom (DoT), call drops in southern states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana stand at around 30-33 per cent, while the worst affected circles include Delhi, Mumbai, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, she said.
"We have asked them (telecom operators) to take measures where call drops are the worst and put those on fast track," Sundararajan said.
She said telecom operators presented their analysis of call drops which showed that it has stabilised but other problems like fading of voice call have increased due to various issues, including some mobile phones not complying with required certification norms.
"Telecom operators said that call drop problem in mobile phones without Global Conformity Framework certificate is more compared to the certified devices. "They raised the issue of illegal repeaters installed in networks (which) are creating interference and affecting call quality. We will look into enforcing rules more stringently," Sundararajan said.
The vigilance arm of the DoT will look into issues of non-compliance raised by mobile service providers.
"Besides, telecom operators said that there is new unique phenomenon they have found in India where around 400 callers use a mobile tower during same time whereas in countries like China and others this average is in the range of 200-300. They are now discussing with equipment makers to handle this kind of issue," Sundararajan said.
Telecom operators said data usage has grown 6-7 times and continues to grow 20-25 per cent every month but they were surprised to see two-times growth in voice traffic which has increased load on networks.
"Telecom operators said they are scaling up investment in infrastructure to cater to growth in the traffic," she said.
The DoT will now hold call drop review meeting every month, she added. Today's meeting comes at a time when Trai's new and more stringent call drop rules have come into force. In fact, the quarter ended December will mark the first instance of reporting under the new formula.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has already asked the operators to submit their network-related data for checking service quality under the new benchmarks.
Over the last two years, mobile service quality has remained a burning issue, irking consumers. In 2016, the regulator had even ordered operators to compensate users for call drops (Re 1 for each call dropped) but the missive was struck down by the Supreme Court.
The DoT had, in a series of meeting over the last few quarters, asked telecom firms to adopt immediate measures to improve call quality including setting up additional mobile towers across the country.