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Telcos not in agreement with TRAI over proposed stringent 5G benchmarks

The upcoming regulations to check the quality of 5G services are expected to have stringent benchmarks for call issues and jitters in video streaming and video calls, among key parameters.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which has completed consultations with telecom operators on the subject, is expected to notify the regulations governing the quality of 5G services in the next two months. The telecom regulator will also update the existing quality norms for 4G services.

This assumes significance as telcos have onboarded close to 200 million users on their 5G networks within 18 months of launch. However, there are no benchmarks to measure the performance of 5G and its network quality as of now. 5G users are currently facing a host of issues such as poor call quality, call muting, voice muffling, not being able to connect to 5G despite active phone settings, and no difference in speeds.

“We are looking at certain benchmarks against which we will measure issues related to voice calls such as call drops, lag in calls, unclear voice, etc,” an official said, adding that the issues are arising because of packet drops and the same needs to be strengthened.

Packet drop means loss of small units of data transmitted over a network from a particular source to a destination. Such an issue affects the overall performance of the network. In some cases, the packets received are delayed, thereby affecting the quality.

For the first time, TRAI will introduce jitters as part of its parameter, through which it will monitor fluctuations in the data flow.

According to the regulator, the parameter is important for delay-sensitive or real-time applications like video calls and high-quality video streaming, and higher jitters in the network adversely affect the end-user experience.

As per the draft regulations, TRAI is expected to introduce latency of less than 100 milliseconds in 4G and 5G network on an average over a period of one month. It said the jitters should be less than 50 milliseconds and call drop rate of less than 2% with a more granular approach. At present, the latency benchmark is at less than 250 milliseconds.

The regulator in the draft has changed the compliance mechanism for telcos to report the data on a monthly basis going forward rather than quarterly basis.

Officials said the reason behind the same is that the quarterly reporting results do not give a clear picture of degraded quality of services in certain areas. The same gets compensated with better quality of service performance in other areas.

This is being done to overcome the effect of averaging over a large period, officials said.

Currently, the 2% call drop parameter is being met by the telcos.

In case the telecom operators do not meet the benchmarks, which are coming up for 4G and 5G, there is likely to be a provision of levying a penalty of up to Rs. 3 lakh per benchmark. In case of false reporting, the penalty on telcos is expected to be up to Rs. 10 lakh per benchmark.

Telecom operators, however, are not in line with TRAI’s stance on the new parameters for 5G.

“Withdrawal of 5G-related parameters from the reporting format will allow organic development of customised use cases and extension of the services,” Jio said in its representations to TRAI. The telecom operator added that there is no need for massive overhaul of quality of services regulation.

Telcos have also said the issues with regard to service quality are also due to poor hardware performance. They have also urged TRAI to not change the reporting of data to monthly from quarterly.

“There are many other external factors, too, outside of TSPs, such as illegal repeaters, boosters and jammers causing interference in the TSP network, Right of Way (RoW) issues, municipal issues leading to the sealing of sites, a very skewed and stricter policy on EMF (electromagnetic field) norms that shrink the coverage area, operational sites getting frequently sealed/shut down in many states or in localities due to fear of EMF,” Airtel told TRAI.

Among other things, TRAI is also expected to ask telcos to report significant network outage to the authority within 24 hours of the start, as part of the new norms.

Telcos have also opposed the stringent penalty norms. Financial Express

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