Has making a mobile call made you feel like being put on conference mode with Babel of tongues jutting in, each asking the other to get off the line? Ever had to tender an apology when the abrupt call drop during a conversation with spouse/girlfriend made it appear that you had hung up on her or do you find yourself frequently spring-cleaning the inbox to get rid of messages such as the one urging you to collect winnings to the tune of 100 lakh British pounds?
In recent times, the mobile network has been acting like as though infested with bugs and users are complaining of increasing instances of cross-talk, call drops and spam SMSes. While telecom operators claim to have in place robust networks and scaled up capacity to match the expansion of subscriber base, consumer activists say that the user experience is often under par in Tamil Nadu and Chennai circles that are among the hot spots of the mobile telephony revolution.
According to the latest figures with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the teledensity in Tamil Nadu is 116.6 — the highest among southern States — Karnataka (97), Andhra Pradesh (80) and Kerala (106). The urban teledensity is 164 and the rural ratio 56 in the State. Panning the quality of service performance of wireless operators for the quarter ending March, 2012, TRAI states that while the performance has improved on some fronts, service quality has deteriorated on the following parameters — the accumulated downtime of Base Transceiver Stations (BTS), call drop rates, congestion of points of interconnection, accessibility of customer call centres and the proportion of voice-to-voice calls answered within 60 seconds.
TRAI noted an improvement in performance parameters with regard to call set-up success rate within the operator’s network and metering/billing credibility. Telecom operators in Tamil Nadu seemed to fare better when it came to TCH congestion (when you get the all channels busy response), call drop rates and congestion of the point of interconnection.
BSNL services in Chennai Circle figure among the places which reported BTS downtime below the benchmark of 2 per cent. The downtime for the operator in this circle was 10.03 per cent.
Virtually, all the major mobile players in Tamil Nadu failed the benchmark (90 per cent) set for the percentage of calls answered by operators within 60 seconds with Airtel recording 81 per cent, Aircel 82 per cent and BSNL Chennai 84 per cent and Tamil Nadu Circle 85 per cent.
BSNL Chennai Telephones Chief General Manager A. Subramanian attributed the under par performance of its CellOne network to the deficient backup provided to its BTS units, especially during the recent regime of power cuts. “We are addressing the backup infrastructure issues,” he said.
A telecom industry spokesman said network congestion happens when there is a mismatch between call volumes and the number of points of interconnection that two operators set up based on traffic estimates. “These PoIs are not static and can be increased or reduced depending on periodic reviews. Good practices would involve monitoring the network to identify the proportion of calls that fail to mature and taking remedial measures on the PoI front,” he said.
Apart from frequent call drops, a recurrent grouse among users concerns unsolicited telemarketing messages and calls. Consumer activist T. Sadagopan says that in spite of repeated TRAI directions on adhering to a Do Not Disturb registry, many users who availed of the facility continue to be spammed with unsolicited messages.
“This gives the impression that a nexus exists between service providers and telemarketers. TRAI which has warned of stiff penalties on service providers for breaches in DND should publicise the action it has taken against defaulters,” he said.