Call drop, bane of cell phone services

Mobile phone services the world over have brought about the age of super-connectivity.
In India, according to one report, in the first quarter of 2015, mobile phone subscriptions reached a mind-boggling 97 crore, nothing less. However, as in most things, the bad follows the good. One of the frustrating elements of mobile usage is the call drop. Due to connectivity glitches, conversations sometimes come to an abrupt end, driving users up the wall. In recent times, call drops have increased exponentially. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), some 14 per cent of all calls get dropped, which is seven times higher than the acceptable limit. More often than not, calls drop due to a break in radio connectivity. In other words, either there is a shortage of radio towers or there is an overload in one tower.

Telecom operators have attempted to fob off criticism by saying there is governmental resistance to the construction of more mobile towers. Some studies claim that mobile tower radiation can adversely affect bird life and even humans. But the suspicion is that operators are using this as an excuse not to expand infrastructure. A few operators say bandwidth shortage is another reason for call drops. In this context, the government’s missive to operators to reduce call drops has come at the right time. Union Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has, quoting the World Health Organisation, given a clean chit to mobile towers. He says the government has released sufficient spectrum too. So, the big excuses have been knocked off. A governmental committee is expected to recommend correctives. The recommendations, once in, have to be followed up seriously and implemented if there has to be a tangible improvement in quality of calls.

Mobile operators must be penalised for every dropped call and suggestions have come in including compensatory free calls or reversing the cost of a dropped call. While expanding infrastructure is undoubtedly expensive and may be perceived as low priority by operators, another option is to share mobile towers. This way, the cost of expansion comes down for each operator and the user benefits from better quality of calls. Ultimately, whatever the problems are the user should be shielded from them. There is already a feeling that with the huge expansion of mobile services and the galloping demand for services, the quality of customer care has become inconsistent. Trai’s latest consumer satisfaction index corroborates this perception. If the issue of call drop is not addressed on a priority basis, this will crown the dissatisfaction among users and eventually boomerang on operators.

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