Telecom companies have come under the scanner as the government has sought information to check the reason behind frequent call drops.With the telecom operators claiming dearth of mobile towers as the reason, government has decided to dig deep to find the truth.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) had recently urged the sector regulator to suggest a mechanism to penalize telecom operators for call drops,Ravi Shankar Prasad, Telecom Minister has asked tower operators to produce details of the number of mobile towers installed and dismantled across India between April 2013 and March 2015.
The Tower & Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA) had stated in a recent mail to member companies that the telecom minister had requested statistics and information on a pan-India basis on number of towers installed between March 31, 2013, and March 31, 2015, along with number of towers dismantled, following a state government directive or a court order. The TAIPA is an industry group representing top tower firms such as Indus Towers, Viom Networks, Bharti Infratel, GTL, Reliance Infratel, Tower Vision and American Tower Corp. As reported by The Economic Times TAIPA has sought inputs from member firms on the number of towers reinstated after legal steps were taken by the industry.
As telecom industry repeatedly blames the call drops on the challenges of installing mobile towers along with shortage of spectrum amidst surging data traffic growth; government officials are of the opinion that one of the ways to penalise telecom operators could be to make it mandatory for them to give free minutes to customers incase of call drops.
The minister has however made it clear that the government does not accept spectrum shortage as a reason. Mobile phone carriers have been asked to improve efficiency to provide better services.
The industry has installed nearly 12,000 new sites between April 1,2013 and March 31,2015, according to a TAIPA document.The report also shows that the industry has dismantled nearly 3000 sites during this time. The towers lobby body has pointed out that these are representational figures and that new site installation by BSNL is not in the list. It added that owing to the legal steps taken by the telecom industry between April 2013 and March 2015 less than 10 percent of the dismantled sites could be reinstated.
As informed to the EconomicTimes, the dismantling of nearly 3000 sites can can greatly affect mobile coverage. “Given average tenancy ratio of 2, the taking down of 3,000 sites would mean the non-availability of a minimum 6,000 tenancies and as many as 12,000 units of radio equipment, which is bound to hit mobile coverage and lead to dropped calls,” informed a director of one of India’s top tower firms.
A moderate site addition arises from reasons such as Non -availability of tower sites in central business districts, high density commercial and residential complexes of major cities amidst worries of cell tower radiation and refusal of municipal corporation and other local bodies to issue clearance; according to TAIPA. Site acquisition are also hampered due to non -provision o site on government land and buildings. One of the major reason for the upsurge of call drops over the years is the tower site demand-supply miss match.