Trying to deflect heat over poor service quality, mobile operators are taking refuge in a new technology to “mask” call drops.
The new technology shows the status of a call as “connected” even when the network connection is lost and the caller is unable to hear the voice from the other side.
Earlier, the call used to get automatically disconnected in case the user moved to a poor network area, making it a “dropped call” under the current regulatory framework.
The new technology ensures that the call remains artificially connected until the caller or receiver decides to terminate it. The user is billed for the entire duration despite not being able to talk for the full or part of the call.
“Telecom operators are using radio-link technology (RLT) which helps them mask call drops, while the consumer is being billed for the time he is on the call...it can be said the caller is artificially connected to a network,” an official source involved in testing of telecom networks said.
“In such cases, the customer often disconnects the call himself, which is not counted as call drop. If the call in such cases is disconnected, the companies continue to charge customers.
“While RLT is helping companies improve their quality of service parameters and revenue, it is also helping them mask the dropped calls,” the source added. There was no reply to queries sent to industry bodies COAI and AUSPI on this matter.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has fixed penalty of up to Rs 2 lakh for poor mobile service quality, including call drops. This penalty kicks in for more than 2% call drops in a quarter in one telecom circle.
The Trai had also mandated the telecom operators to pay consumers Re 1 for every call drop, subject to a maximum of Rs 3 per day, but this provision was recently quashed by the Supreme Court.
Telecom operators have been facing intense heat over frequent call drops for many months now, although they say factors like lack of approval for setting up mobile towers are responsible for the problem.