Call Drops: DoT Rings up Owners, Customers Might Be Compensated

New Delhi
Call Drops: DoT Rings up Owners, Customers Might Be Compensated

Stepping up pressure on mobile operators to check call drops, the government has asked their promoters including Anil Ambani, Kumar Mangalam Birla and Sunil Mittal to directly intervene to address the issue, failing which the companies would have to face penal action.

While Department of Telecom Secretary Rakesh Garg made phone calls to the top Indian industrialists, as also UK-based Vodafone's global CEO Vittorio Colao, to covey the concerns raised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on call drops, watchdog TRAI said it will issue final recommendations by mid-October on compensation to be given by operators to their customers.

The regulator has already floated a draft paper on the issue of call drops and is currently reviewing the quality of services being offered by various operators.

"We have floated a paper relating to compensation and have sought comments from operators... After which there will be an open house discussion. I expect that by October 10-15, we will give the final recommendations in this regard," TRAI Chairman RS Sharma told reporters today here at an event.

At a meeting with CEOs of mobile operators yesterday, he had asked them to improve services while saying their performance would be reviewed in 15 days.

Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also warned yesterday that the option of imposing penalties on erring operators could be explored if the companies fail to do the needful to improve the situation.

Facing heat, the top industry executives, including at Bharti group, said the industry is not shying away from its responsibility and is committed to providing quality services.

Sources said Telecom Secretary has telephoned promoters of mobile firms directly and asked them to improve services, failing which DoT will have to impose penalties under the licence conditions.

Garg elaborated on the concerns raised by the Prime Minister to the owners and asked them to optimise networks.

Among others, he called up Sunil Mittal of Bharti Airtel, Anil Ambani of Reliance Communications, Kumar Mangalam Birla of Idea Cellular and Vittorio Colao of Vodafone, sources said.

As the call drops menace continues to deteriorate, the government has warned the companies to get their act right on the issue or face action.

The government feels that telecom operators are not investing enough in the networks which is leading to call drops, although they deny the charge.

"At present, I am not thinking of any kind of penalty imposition but I don't rule out the option if the situation doesn't improve because naturally if there is an issue it needs to be addressed by those who are in the game," Prasad said yesterday.

At an industry event this morning, Bharti Enterprises Vice Chairman Akhil Gupta however said that the industry was committed to do the needful to improve the services.

"There is absolutely no shying away of responsibility on this (quality of services)...We as an industry are committed to this," Gupta said.

Bharti Enterprises is the promoter group entity of country's largest telecom company Bharti Airtel.

Gupta added the industry has already invested Rs 3 lakh crore in various spectrum auctions and will further invest to improve the quality of services.

"On behalf of the industry, I would like to assure that this industry will invest whatever it takes, having invested Rs 3 lakh crore already in various spectrum auctions...There is absolutely no shying away of making more investments to improve quality of services," Gupta, who is also Executive Chairman of tower firm Bharti Infratel, said.

Gupta complimented the government for providing support on various issues concerning the sector.

"The support the government has given to us, particularly in the last 15 months, like spectrum auctions as spectrum is a lifeline of this industry, but let me particularly point out on the support given to us on passive infrastructure is absolutely exemplary," he said.

Gupta added the DoT has come out with guidelines as to what the tower policy of the country should be, while the Minister has personally written to all state chief ministers requesting allowing mobile towers to be put up on the government buildings.

"This just conveys the intention of the government as to how serious they are," he added.

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