Come 2016 India's service providers may have to pay subscribers who experience dropped calls a fee of 1 Indian rupee ($0.015) per incident up to a maximum of INR3 ($0.05) every day, according to new regulatory proposals.
The problem of dropped calls has become a source of regulatory concern in the last few months, with operators indicating that dropped calls now account for about 12% of total calls made, against a permissible ratio of 3%, according to a recent report from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) . (See India's Dropped Calls Fiasco.)
The Indian arm of Norway's Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN) is currently the only service provider in the country that provides compensation -- in the form of extra talk time -- to customers experiencing dropped calls.
But operators are not thrilled about the prospect of having to pay customers for network problems. Clearly, with a total of 988.69 million mobile subscribers (as of August 31 2015, according to TRAI subscriber data), they would be looking at a huge payout if these rules were introduced. The Cellular Operators Association of India has suggested taking legal action over the regulatory proposals.
In any case, compensation might do little to address the problem of dropped calls, which stems from a shortage of cellular frequencies, according to Rishi Tejpal, a principal research analyst at Gartner Inc. . "The spectrum that the service providers have is not enough," says Tejpal.
On top of the spectrum crunch, growing concern about the risks of radiation -- however spurious -- is making it hard for operators to deploy more towers in residential areas. As a result, networks are not being upgraded and expanded quickly enough to meet demand.
On a more encouraging note, the Department of Telecommunications has recently approved guidelines for spectrum sharing and trading, which should go some way towards resolving the problem.
Operators could also look to make use of new self-organizing network (SON) technology to enhance spectral efficiency, using small cells and boosters to combat the problem of black spots.
"The service providers should consider investing in SON for automation of planning, configuration, management and optimization of mobile radio access networks," says Amresh Nandan, a research director of Gartner's communications services provider division.
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading