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As 5G services launched, TRAI asked to recommend improving QOS

Telecom operators may face stricter standards for offering their services after the launch of 5G as the sector regulator seeks to assure better service quality at the granular level to arrest rising instances of call drops.

A senior official at the Department of Telecommunications said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been informally asked to look at improving the quality-of-service parameters, which may be applicable to smaller areas compared to what TRAI maps currently.

“We’ve asked TRAI to look at how can they improve quality of service. It’s not a formal reference, but quality of service falls under TRAI’s ambit, so they can direct telecom service providers on what should be done,” he said, seeking anonymity.

The need to revisit the quality-of-service parameters comes amid increasing number of call drops, as well as disconnections in data connectivity on telecom networks, and more and more users moving to over-the-top calling and messaging apps such as Whatsapp.

While this trend led to a fall in voice call minutes, it has also increased data usage and, hence, data traffic on telecom networks. “The call drops issue is more severe in densely populated areas and sometimes even data calls don’t always go through,” an industry executive said, also requesting anonymity.

The DoT official said while all telcos have been meeting quality-of-service parameters consistently over larger areas or within a circle, consumer complaints on call drops have increased in the past several quarters. “There are some areas that are clearly not meeting required benchmarks, which means that mobile phone coverage in those areas is not adequate and has to be improved,” he added.

With the launch of 5G, the number of towers and cell sites for coverage of the services is set to rise, according to industry experts. Telecom minister Ashwini Vaishnaw has also asked telcos to improve the quality of service by three to four times the existing levels, and said the government had ushered in waves of reforms to give the industry whatever it needs to grow.

“I have given targets to field units in the telecom department, find out the quality-of-service in each village and pull up the telcos. They should increase quality of service significantly. It has to go both ways, and go full steam ahead on improving quality of service,” he had said in October.

Sector regulator TRAI currently maps the call drops on a tower-by-tower basis, instead of monitoring on the basis of telecom circles. It lays down the minimum requirement criteria for telcos to meet quality of standard guidelines and also by conducting drive tests across the country.

Parameters mapped by the TRAI include points of interconnection between telcos for smooth flow of voice and data traffic, network availability in a given area and congestion in a service area, besides metering and billing, access to call centres and customer care services and the percentage of calls answered by operators within a defined timeframe.

Telcos failing to meet the parameters are liable for penalties. TRAI had issued new quality of service norms in October 2017, when 4G services started to pick up in the country. Livemint

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