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Delhi HC asks TRAI if compensation is the only solution for call drops

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) whether its order making it mandatory for cellular operators to compensate subscribers for call drops was the “only solution” to reduce call drops.

A division bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath asked if the sector regulator if it had considered all the objections raised by the telecom operators before passing the October 16 order.

The objection of the service provider does not reflect on the measures taken. Where is the application of mind? Was it the only solution?” the bench asked as it heard the plea of telecom operators for a stay on TRAI’s compensation policy for call drops, under which a rupee will be credited to the mobile users’ account for every call drop (restricted to three per day) starting January 1, 2016.

Earlier, TRAI had told the court that it will not take coercive steps against telecom companies for not complying with the call drop compensation norms till January 6.

On Thursday, the court did not pass any interim order saying if service providers begin compensating consumers for call drops as, per the new TRAI regulations, it won’t be possible to recover them if the rule was set aside in future.

Additional Solicitor General PS Narasimha, appearing for TRAI, said the order was taken after consumers began getting regular call drops. He said the telecom companies have not made enough investment on technology and infrastructure which could prevent call drops.

In the first quarter of 2015, about 25,787 crore outgoing call were made, out of which in 200 crore cases of call drops were encountered by consumers. This is 0.77 percent of all call made, Narasimha told the court adding that service provider made about Rs.36,781 crore during the period.

He further clarified that call drop compensation is applicable only when it has occurred from the call originator’s network.

We treated the compensation as a nominal penalty so that they fall in line. That’s why we kept it at only three calls. But consumers are asking to be compensated for all call drops,

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the telecom operators, argued that under the Quality of Service regulations, two percent of call drops are exempted. He also said that most cases of call drops were not because of the fault of the service providers as they have been facing difficulties in setting up new towers due to opposition from various fronts.(IANS)(Picture Courtesy: www.topnews.in)

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To Counter Call drop, Telcos to Install 150,000 Towers by March 2017

The feedback of the subscribers will be shared with the TSPs so that they can take corrective steps in the identified areas

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Telecommunication towers
Respite from Call Drop problems: with restoration of new towers,wikimedia commons

New Delhi, Dec 28, 2016: Trying to solve call drops, the telecom service providers have installed more than 130,000 additional base transceiver stations (BTS) across the country between June to October and plan to install more than 150,000 more BTSs till March 2017, an official statement said here on Wednesday.

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“In order to obtain direct feedback from subscribers and use that feedback to solve the problem of call drops, DoT (Department of Telecommunications) has launched an Integrated Voice Response System (IVRS) in Delhi, Mumbai, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Goa on December 23, 2016,” the statement said.

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The IVRS will be extended to the entire country very soon, it added.

“The platform is a channel to capture direct feedback from the consumers and this voice of the customer can be used to improve the services that are being offered to them,” Communications Minister Manoj Sinha said.

He said, initially the government will use the platform for call drops and will extend this to receive consumer feedback in other areas as well in the future.

“Subscribers will receive an IVRS call from the short code 1955. They will be asked a few questions on the subject of call drops such as: Are they facing call drops in their area or not? They can also send a toll-free SMS to the same short code 1955, containing the location of city/town/village, where they might be facing the problem of frequent call drops,” the statement said.

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The feedback of the subscribers will be shared with the TSPs so that they can take corrective steps in the identified areas, to improve the mobile network for addressing the problem of call drops, it added. (IANS)

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TRAI ruling: green flag to Net Neutralists

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By Prasanto K Roy

On Monday afternoon, India’s telecom regulator finally put to rest the fiery net neutrality debate in India, by ruling against zero rating and differential tariffs.

Zero rating lets Airtel users use Facebook, for instance, free of data levies, while charging for access to other services or websites.

This violates net neutrality, which says there should be no differential pricing — free data for one service, but priced for another — based on the content or websites.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has now forbidden such “discriminatory pricing” by whatever name it may be called.

The watchdog’s ruling is clear and sharp, and a blow to Facebook’s high-stakes Free Basics platform, born as Internet.org, as well as to Airtel Zero and other zero-rating platforms tried out, or planned, by telcos.

The year-long battle between the heavyweights, including telecom giants and Facebook, and a bunch of volunteers under the SaveTheInternet.in banner, was fiery, and seemingly unequal.

Facebook ploughed in an estimated Rs.300 crore into its three-month campaign defending Free Basics. Against it, though, the lone volunteer-activists gradually managed to drum up a great deal of public support.

A spokesman said Facebook was “disappointed with the outcome, but we will continue our efforts to eliminate barriers and give the unconnected an easier path to the internet and the opportunities it brings”.

Expectedly, the activists were ecstatic.

“This is a historic outcome,” said Kiran Jonnalagadda, a co-founder of the SaveTheInternet.in movement.

“For the first time, India leads where the US and Europe will follow. Many thanks to TRAI chairman R.S. Sharma for backing such an important ruling as his first major act in office.”

The TRAI ruling got widespread applause, including from tech association Nasscom, which had given a submission supporting net neutrality. Its Internet council chairman Sanjeev Bikhchandani said the ruling would “help address apprehensions of young startups fearing the lack of a level playing field.”

Entrepreneur Arvind Jha of TiE said the collective power of 7,000 startups (whose founders had written to the PMO supporting Net Neutrality) and a dedicated team of volunteers has won over Facebook’s ad blitzkrieg running into hundreds of crores of rupees.

So have David and the good guys vanquished Goliath, ending the battle?

The reality may be more nuanced than that. A battle much bigger than activists versus Facebook is up ahead: Providing Internet access to nearly a billion Indians who are offline, or nominally online, today.

First, the nuances.

Facebook is responsible for a great deal of the Internet penetration in India. Of the 300 million mobile users who make up over 90 percent of India’s internet base, 56 percent use WhatsApp daily, and 51 percent use Facebook, according to a TNS survey released last October.

So, at least, two out of every three Internet users in India use mobile data, purely to use one or the other of Facebook’s apps, including WhatsApp. It would be great to find a net-neutral way to let users access the apps or sites they need to (which may include WhatsApp or Facebook), free, or cheaply.

The Net neutrality movement, and now TRAI, has shot down Free Basics, which would have got Facebook and a few select apps free of data charges to subscribers of one telco (Reliance Communications).

But, TRAI hasn’t yet suggested what alternatives could be used to provide cheap or free Internet access to the hundreds of millions of mobile users who are unable or unwilling to pay for mobile data.

And no! They don’t have access to even wireline broadband.

The watchdog did ask that question in its consultation paper. So we’re all hoping it will yet come up with some workable ideas.

There are several options as well.

For instance, letting the telecom companies offer a certain amount of free data for all, or using apps like Gigato which allow sponsors to top-up data, free, for prepaid users of specific apps: that recharged data can then be used for accessing any website or app.

Then there’s Digital India, which aims to put Wi-Fi into towns and villages, letting smartphone users access the internet free or cheaply.

Former journalist Pierre Fitter puts it well: “Good that all Web content will be treated as equal. Now comes the important bit: making sure everyone can access the Internet.” (IANS)

(Prasanto K. Roy is a senior technology journalist)

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Minimise air pollution in Delhi by strictly implementing laws: HC

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday, observing that air pollution in Delhi is of an “emergency nature”, asked all authorities here to ensure that all rules are implemented to minimise the pollution level.

A division bench of Justice B D Ahmed and Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said: “It is their (authorities) prime duty to ensure all rules are followed because the situation that has arisen today is of emergency nature.”

Further observing, that there are rules and acts to ensure maintenance of air quality levels but authorities have not done their work, the bench asked them to follow the rules.

Taking note that the pollution level has gone up on a year to year basis, the court asked the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) to analyse the data available from 2011 onwards and provide the court a monthly average chart of each pollutant.

It has also been asked to give a weekly chart of the pollutants during the months from October to February for all the years from 2011 to 2015.

DPCC has also been asked to furnish details of action taken by it against any violations in the last five years.

On the rising levels of landfill sites in Delhi which handle 8,500 metric tonnes of waste generated by the city each day, the court said that the solid waste management rules were not implemented in Delhi.

“Himalayan range is developing in Delhi,” remarked the bench, as it posted the matter for January 14, 2016.

The court was hearing a PIL seeking measures to control increasing air pollution in the national capital.(IANS)