Telcos commit to spending Rs 12,000 crore in 100-days, to address call drop issue


New Delhi : Telecom operators in the country on Friday submitted a 100-day action plan to the government where they have committed to invest about Rs 12,000 crore in the next three months to set 60,000 new base transmitter stations, which enable mobile networks to connect, across the country. Telecom secretary JS Deepak said he also said jailing executives wasn't the right approach to resolving the issue of quality of services. Deepak told reporters on Friday after his first quarterly review meeting with top mobile phone executives since taking over as the telecom secretary. 

"The government believes in the telecom sector. The quality of service must improve and industry has responsibility," he said. Telecom operators present at the meeting included Bharti AirtelBSE 0.10 % CEO (India, South Asia) Gopal Vittal, Vodafone India CEO Sunil Sood, Idea CellularBSE -1.34 % managing director Himanshu Kapania and Reliance Jio Infocomm MD Sanjay Mashruwala. "We discussed with the telecom secretary how we plan to address the issue and the concerns of the sector," Rajan Mathews, director general of industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), said after the meet. 

The meeting comes at a time when ties between the telcos and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) have reached a low with both parties adopting aggressive stance against one another on several issues, including call drops. The regulator recently sent a letter to the telecom department (DoT) seeking changes in the Trai Act to include powers to impose hefty fines on erring companies and jail their executives. 

It came within a month of the Supreme Court striking down a Trai order to telcos to compensate users for call drops. Telcos reacted saying imprisonment would be "draconian" and fixing penalties for an infringement of any type is "arbitrary".  Taking cognizance of the worsening call drop situation, Deepak said, "Business as usual cannot happen. I am not sure penal power will be one and final solution to this." He said the telecom department was yet to take a call on Trai's proposal, but "personally" he was of the opinion that executives of telecom companies can't be sent to jail for each call dropped. 

Deepak said the issue of call drops required a more sophisticated solution and that there was no "magic bullet" to resolve it. The telecom secretary's comments should go down well with the telecom industry which has criticised the Trai's move to seek more powers. During the meeting, each operator presented a 100-day plan for improving service quality and raised issues hampering improvement in the networks. Trai's recent test drive results showed that most telecom operators failed the call drop tests. However, telcos on Friday complained to the DoT that it was because the regulator conducted the tests in the worst affected areas, leading to a bias in the results.