This is in response to the article ‘Torrent of call drops makes Digital India sound like a joke. One answer: Segregate voice from data’, authored by Sandip Sen (March 29, 2018). The author has wrongly blamed the country’s leading telecom service providers as well as tower companies for high incidences of call drops and cited their lack of capital investments. It also offered unscientific and technologically implausible solutions to address this problem.

Telecom operators have, over the last few years, invested a hefty amount of over Rs 9 lakh crore to create a world class telecom infrastructure currently serving 1.15 billion subscribers in the country. In the last three years, the operators have added almost 10 lakh new base transceiver stations to cater to the requirement of subscribers.

Further to this, the sharing of telecom infrastructure is an Indian global best practice that has become a Harvard Business School case study. These companies combined their telecom towers to provide “shared telecom infrastructure” to wireless telecom operators on a non-discriminatory basis.

The recently published Independent Drive Test Reports of Trai for the cities namely Indore, Nagpur, Mysore, Bhubaneshwar, Bhiwani, Kanpur, Kota, Patna, Raipur, Ranchi, have shown that the operators are in compliance with call drop rates benchmarked by the regulatory authority. This is quite evident from the press release of TRAI while publishing these drive test reports.

It is pertinent to mention that all these recent reports of Trai are of the cities outside Delhi-NCR and major metros. This must be juxtaposed against the author’s remark that call drop rates are higher outside Delhi-NCR. If that is the case, then call drop rates in Delhi-NCR and major metros must be even better.

The author also opines that increase in data usage – for example with viral videos – affects the network’s ability to manage call quality. However, voice traffic is not impacted by increase in messages/ videos sent over the OTT platform, as in the telecom networks there is a provision to ensure that voice traffic is not hampered by data traffic.

Separate channels are allocated to voice and data traffic so as to ensure that data does not impinge upon the quality of voice. Thus the author’s comparison between data surges on the telecom network and electricity surges causing the power supply to trip has no basis in fact whatsoever.

Call drop rates are being measured by Trai during the busiest hour of the day when the voice tariff surges and reaches its peak. Still, operators are meeting the benchmark or are close to meet the prescribed benchmark of TRAI.

Moreover, load balancing, traffic management and the latest technologies utilizing “Self Optimizing Networks” (SON) have been deployed by telecom service providers to ensure that networks respond to subscriber demand in an optimal way.

Hence to indicate that towers are “switched off” suggests an inappropriate understanding about how telecom networks are managed. Further, inadequate quality checks on devices, particularly dual SIM devices are a problem that merits urgent attention.

Telecom operators have been making humongous investments, both in terms of capital and intent, to create a world class telecom infrastructure in the country towards ensuring the country’s dream of becoming a USD 4 billion digital economy by 2022. Despite facing pressing issues such as ‘right of way’, non-availability of electricity to run the base transceiver stations, myths around the towers emitting dangerous radiation, etc, operators have already demonstrated their ability to make committed and long term investments into the sector.

The article does disservice to an industry which has offered consumers the lowest tariffs in the world and continues to invest in the sector despite debilitating financial health and declining revenues, as many media reports attest. The industry has added over 3,50,000 base transceiver stations last year, taking the total to now over 17,00,000 stations across the country. – TOI


Perspective

Bharat exn

Communicatia

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