Monday December 11, 2017
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Call drop penalty takes effect from January

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New Delhi: India’s telecom watchdog on Friday said mobile phone operators have to compensate subscribers on call drops from January 1 next year at the rate of a rupee for each such failure.

A notification from the Telecom Regulatory Authotity of India (TRAI) said the calling consumer will get a credit of Re 1 per call drop, limited to three such occurances per day in a 24-hour cycle. Following that, the mobile operators have to send them an SMS within four hours.

The regulator also defined what constituted such a failure.

“Call drops means a voice call which, after being successfully established, is interrupted prior to its normal completion – the cause of the early termination being within the network of the service provider.”

The watchdog said it had examined the representations of telecom operators who maintain that some issues like poor spectrum allocation and difficulties in setting up towers that were beyond their control and contributing to call drops.

It said it was for this reason that the authority has kept the compensatory mechanism simple so that the consumers understand the same easily, and the operators are able to implement it as well.

The effective date for call-drop compensation comes a day after the watchdog said doubled the penalty for poor quality service and said an operator will now be fined up to Rs 1 lakh for the first non-compliance of benchmarks in a quarter compared Rs 50,000 earlier.

It also said the non-compliance, benchmarked on some 15 parameters under technical and customer care categories, in two or more consecutive quarters will result in a penalty up to Rs 1.5 lakh and a fine up to Rs 2 lakh.

If the telecom operators do not meet the benchmarks, companies like Airtel, Reliance and Idea could end up paying around Rs 2.3 crore, Rs 1.9 crore and Rs 80 lakh respectively, taking into account a scenario that only 10 percent of their subscriber base face only one call drop a day.

Airtel, Reliance and Idea have 23.29 crore, 10.99 crore and 8.33 crore subscribers respectively.

(IANS)

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Centre should incentivise private Commercial Banks for opening branches in Chhattisgarh’s tribal areas: CM

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Tribals in Madhya Pradesh (representational Image), Wikimedia

New Delhi, April 9, 2017: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh on Sunday said the Centre should incentivise private commercial banks for opening branches in remote tribal areas of the state.

He also stressed the need to improve the penetration of telecom services in tribal areas of the state.

The Centre can incentivise by giving permission to them to open 2-3 extra branches in A-plus cities for every branch they open in a remote tribal area, he said at the 11th Standing Committee meeting of the Inter-State Council here.

Raman Singh pointed out that in Bastar region, the coverage of banking services was a mere 10 per cent and in Surguja district it was just 15 per cent.

The Chief Minister said that since private telecom operators are not willing to expand their services in remote tribal areas, the state government should be provided assistance from Universal Service Obligation Fund to ensure this service in these areas.

He demanded resumption of central assistance for eight Naxal-affected districts of Chhattisgarh. (IANS)

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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)