'Spectrum band change is a reason for call drops'Vodafone had almost 185 million

'Spectrum band change is a reason for call drops'Vodafone had almost 185 million
Vodafone had almost 185 million subscribers in India as of December, 2014, and is the country’s second largest service. In an interaction with Furquan Moharkan of Deccan Herald, Sunil Sood, Managing Director and CEO of Vodafone India said it’s not practically possible to have zero call drops across the country. He also added that government needs to have a centralised mandate on the issue.

What are the reasons for the call drops?

There are many reasons for the call drops. Firstly, the spectrum band got changed after 20 years. It was de-auctioned and auctioned. Therefore, we got different bands.

There were 20 years of fine tuning that went into the previous band. And, now, we have got entirely different bands, on which we have to do fine-tuning. It won’t take one or two days. It takes some time. In the previous band, it took 20 years of fine tuning, optimising and devising how our networks and antennas work. It takes years together. This is one reason.

Second reason is activism of Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).  They had been shutting down our sites. The third is that a lot of Luyten’s Delhi doesn’t have spaces for putting up the sites.  The fourth reason in that there is a lot of scare regarding the electro-magnetic field (EMF).

The people, who had already had sites, were also telling us to remove them.  So these are the basic reasons behind call drops.

How authentic is the fear relating to the electro-magnetic field?

If you see, recently, a minister had come on television a couple of times to say that there are no hazards related to it, which has helped the case a bit.

Another thing is that high courts have set up various expert panels on this issue, which have comprised for various experts from IITs and IISC. They have given favourable verdict in this case. This has also helped our viewpoint.

Unfortunately, the word for radio waves is radiation and the connotation that people bear for radio waves is —things to do with cancer. But, it is just one end of the band of spectrum that constitutes X-rays, MRIs. There should be demarcation between the two.

Does the quality of the spectrum impact call drops?

No, but the interference in the spectrum in some bands has impacted it. We had interference in some of the new brands we have got, especially in the CDMA band.
We had to put in the filters for that which we did, to ensure the quality to our customers.

Despite spending so much on improving infrastructure TRAI recently said that most of the telcos have failed in the call drop test.  So where is that telecom companies are lagging behind?

TRAI has a quarterly quality-based testing format. So, firstly, let me state that in all the trials we have always satisfied their criteria of keeping call drops well below 2 per cent. 

This technology of mobile phones is over-the-air technology. There will always be spots where intrusions and call drops will happen. I can never put an end to it and ensure that there are zero call drops throughout the country.  This is practically not possible.

There will always be spots in the city, where call drops will happen. So that is why averages are taken throughout the country.

What more can be done by the industry to improve the situation in this regard?

First of all, we need to ensure that municipalities don’t shut our sites and towers. We have to work with the government to provide towers at all government buildings, defence establishments.

 Look at Bengaluru only, suddenly there is a defence establishment. How do I cover it now? I am not a magician. I can’t put a plate in the air, saying it covers that area.
And, people are slowly realising that telecom is an essential service, and every one of our citizens needs it.  Therefore we are seeing great responses from the government in this regard.

What are the steps that the government need to take in this regard?

The government can have a central law for opening up all government establishments for telecom sites.

They can ensure like any other essential service, there are central mandates in telecom sector also.

Municipalities can’t randomly come and shut site without any particular set of rules and regulation.

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