One of the adverse consequences of fast-paced technology expansion in a scenario of inadequate infrastructure and overloaded networks has been poor quality of services. As per TRAI data, in the first quarter of 2015, over 1 per cent of the 260 billion outgoing calls were disrupted due to network-related issues.
Against this backdrop, the latest ruling of the Supreme Court, striking down the regulator’s decision mandating operators to compensate subscribers for dropped calls, has come as a bit of a surprise to many, though some believe it to be a sound move. Surprising, as it seems anti-consumer and sound, as it is based on the premise that the methodology for determining the penalty was inappropriate and would have an adverse impact on operator financials. Imagine, for instance, if such a regulation was applied to an airline or Indian Railways, with a certain amount to be refunded to every passenger for each hour of flight/train delay.
For telecom operators, the judgment terming TRAI’s regulation as “manifestly arbitrary”, “unreasonable” and “non-transparent” has come as a breather as compensating users for call drops would have entailed an outgo of Rs 100 billion to Rs 540 billion.
As far as telecom users are concerned, it’s back to square one. Call drops continue to be a reality with no clarity on how the issue will be resolved.
On a positive note, despite the apex court’s ruling, operators have acknowledged the issue and are willing to work towards its resolution. However, the key problems remain the unavailability of sites to put up towers, spectrum shortage and delays in obtaining clearances. The industry will not be able to resolve the problem unless these matters are worked upon.