Call Drops: Parliamentary Panel to Meet Telcos, DoT, TRAI on November 10

Call Drops: Parliamentary Panel to Meet Telcos, DoT, TRAI on November 10A Parliamentary panel has called telecom operators along with the Department of Telecom and sector regulator TRAI for a meeting on November 10 to discuss the raging call drop issue.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, headed by BJP MP Anurag Thakur, has called members of industry body COAI and Reliance Jio separately.

Reliance Jio, also a member of Cellular Operators Association of India, has blamed the industry body for promulgating views of mainly incumbent telecom operators – Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular.

The subject of the meeting is ‘Issues related to quality of services and reported call drops’, according to a Lok Sabha notice. The panel will “hear the views of the representatives of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and Reliance Jio, followed by meeting with representatives of DoT and The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).”

Call drops are rampant in the country with telecom operators of late making some effort to improve the situation by installing more telecom towers.
There has also been a tussle between Reliance Jio and incumbent telecom operators for not providing adequate interconnection facility to the Mukesh Ambani-led firm, leading to heavy call drops on its network.

Interconnection enables mobile users to make calls to customers of other networks and is, therefore, crucial for smooth functioning of mobile services.
(Also see: Airtel Says Has Provided 7,000 More Points of Interconnect to Jio)

TRAI has also recommended a penalty of Rs. 3,050 crores on Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, holding them responsible for congestion on Reliance Jio network leading to call drops.

As per the quality of service rules, not more than five calls in 1,000 should fail due to network congestion. The recommendation followed complaints from Reliance Jio that over 75 percent of calls on its network are failing as incumbents were not giving sufficient points of interconnect that would help complete calls.

As per TRAI’s recommendation, the penalty for Airtel and Vodafone work out to about Rs. 1,050 crores each, while in case of Idea Cellular it comes to about Rs. 950 crores.

The regulator stopped short of recommending cancellation of their telecom licences by saying it may lead to “significant consumer inconvenience”.

Call Drops: Parliamentary Panel to Meet Telcos, DoT, TRAI on November 10

Call Drops: Parliamentary Panel to Meet Telcos, DoT, TRAI on November 10A Parliamentary panel has called telecom operators along with the Department of Telecom and sector regulator TRAI for a meeting on November 10 to discuss the raging call drop issue.

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, headed by BJP MP Anurag Thakur, has called members of industry body COAI and Reliance Jio separately.

Reliance Jio, also a member of Cellular Operators Association of India, has blamed the industry body for promulgating views of mainly incumbent telecom operators – Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular.

The subject of the meeting is ‘Issues related to quality of services and reported call drops’, according to a Lok Sabha notice. The panel will “hear the views of the representatives of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) and Reliance Jio, followed by meeting with representatives of DoT and The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).”

Call drops are rampant in the country with telecom operators of late making some effort to improve the situation by installing more telecom towers.

There has also been a tussle between Reliance Jio and incumbent telecom operators for not providing adequate interconnection facility to the Mukesh Ambani-led firm, leading to heavy call drops on its network.

Interconnection enables mobile users to make calls to customers of other networks and is, therefore, crucial for smooth functioning of mobile services.

(Also see: Airtel Says Has Provided 7,000 More Points of Interconnect to Jio)

TRAI has also recommended a penalty of Rs. 3,050 crores on Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, holding them responsible for congestion on Reliance Jio network leading to call drops.

As per the quality of service rules, not more than five calls in 1,000 should fail due to network congestion. The recommendation followed complaints from Reliance Jio that over 75 percent of calls on its network are failing as incumbents were not giving sufficient points of interconnect that would help complete calls.

As per TRAI’s recommendation, the penalty for Airtel and Vodafone work out to about Rs. 1,050 crores each, while in case of Idea Cellular it comes to about Rs. 950 crores.

The regulator stopped short of recommending cancellation of their telecom licences by saying it may lead to “significant consumer inconvenience”.

Government Plans Second Phase of Telecom Sector Reforms

Government Plans Second Phase of Telecom Sector ReformsThe Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is now looking to herald second generation reforms like simplifying licences and launching electromagnetic field (EMF) portals to help people test the level of radiation from towers.

“We are now looking at second generation reforms, which include simplifying licences, moving from the access spectrum space to backhaul spectrum space and EMF portal, to make it possible for the citizens to test the radiation level from towers,” Telecom Secretary J.S. Deepak said on Tuesday.

Addressing the inaugural session of “India Telecom 2016”, organised jointly by DoT and Ficci, Deepak said in the last six to eight months there have been huge reforms in the spectrum space, like sharing and trading of airwaves.

“We have adopted a transparent system of allocation of spectrum,” he said.

Deepak further said: “There is no longer an environment of spectrum scarcity. So much spectrum is now available with our telcos that it can improve the quality of services, including mobile broadband.”

Sharing of passive infrastructure vis-a-vis licences and lighter regulations with issuing of self certification are some of the other things,” he added.

Deepak observed that a third of the country’s population is still without voice connections and two-thirds of it unable to connect to internet because of issues of connectivity, digital literacy and absence of content in local languages.

Airtel Says Hopeful of ‘Objective Outcome’ on Reliance Jio PoI Penalty

Airtel Says Hopeful of 'Objective Outcome' on Reliance Jio PoI PenaltyReassuring of having done everything ‘humanly’ possible to augment connectivity between its network and newcomer Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel today said it hopes of ‘objective outcome’ on TRAI’s suggested imposition of Rs. 1,050 crores penalty over interconnect issue.

“We have done everything we could have humanly done…The amount of augmentation runs into thousands of points of interconnect in five weeks…we have offered a staggering pace of augmentation…to the new entrant, and the quantity of augmentation we have done is 2.5 times that of any other player with equivalent set of customers,” Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO, India and South Asia, Bharti Airtel told PTI.

Stating that there has been a “confusion” around the entire interconnect issue, Vittal expressed hope that an ‘objective outcome’ will emerge through a dialogue with both Telecom Department and TRAI.

(Also see: Many Telecom Operators Have Executed 100-Day Call Drop Plan, Says COAI)

Blaming Reliance Jio for delays at its end, Vittal said that augmentation of interconnection required efforts on both sides. “Both parties need to be ready…We have had delays on the other side in terms of their own links of transmission into our switching centres…all that has led to what today is… a non issue,” he said.

It may be recalled that late last month, sector regulator TRAI suggested a penalty of about Rs. 1,050 crores each for Airtel and Vodafone, and Rs. 950 crores in case of Idea Cellular, dealing a blow to the incumbent operators on the interconnect issue.

TRAI, in its recommendation to the Department of Telecom, said it has found the trio non-compliant with licence conditions and service quality norms, given the high rate of call failures and congestion at interconnect points for RJio. “It is our obligation to provide points of interconnect and we will continue to do so,” Vittal said.

Airtel Says Has Provided 7,000 More Points of Interconnect to Reliance Jio

Airtel Says Has Provided 7,000 More Points of Interconnect to Reliance JioBharti Airtel on Thursday said it has provided over 7,000 additional points of interconnect (PoIs) to Reliance Jio, taking the total number of PoIs provided till date to over 17,000.

“This capacity is sufficient to serve over 75 million customers, based on the forecast provided by Jio to Airtel. This will also ensure that the quality of service (QoS) is maintained and the customers are not inconvenienced,” an Airtel statement said here.

“Airtel has been providing PoIs to Jio, even before the commencement of Jio’s commercial operations. Following the commercial launch of services by Jio on September 5 2016, Airtel has released PoIs at a staggering pace, well ahead of its bilateral and regulatory obligations.

(Also see: Free Calls Like Reliance Jio? This Is What Airtel Said)

“As a matter of fact the number of PoIs provided by Airtel to Jio is more than 2.5 times the number provided to an existing operator with a comparable subscriber base,” it added.

The Indian telecom regulator on October 21 slapped heavy penalties on three telecom players – Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular – for not providing sufficient PoIs to Reliance Jio.

It also said the action of the three operators showed “ulterior motive to stifle competition”.

In three similar letters to the three players, the watchdog – Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)- said it has recommended a penal action of Rs. 50 crores per licence service area (LSA) except Jammu and Kashmir, where PoI congestion exceeded the allowable limit of 0.5 percent as reported by Airtel/Vodafone/Idea Cellular through emails in September.

In the case of Airtel and Vodafone, the fines imposed were for 21 LSAs, amounting to Rs. 1,050 crores each, while in the case of Idea, the fine was Rs. 950 crores for 19 LSA.

“In June 2016, Jio had provided its forecast of projected points of interconnect to Airtel. At a meeting on November 1 2016 in the presence of the TRAI, Jio reiterated its requirement and requested Airtel to provide sufficient PoIs in line with its forecast of June 2016.

“With the latest augmentation, Airtel has now provided Jio the capacity to cater to 75 million customers. This is well ahead of the timeframe, since there are currently only 25 million customers making calls to the Airtel network from Jio,” the Airtel statement said.

“Our regulatory obligations permit us to provide interconnect in a period of 90 days,” it added.

With this augmentation Airtel said it has provided Jio capacity that is comparable to operators with six to eight times the customer base of Jio, in nine weeks of their launch.

“We now request Jio to ensure that the additional POIs, that we have made available at a staggering pace, be operationalised with the same alacrity. This will help identify any network related issues, which Jio may have in their network should any problems persist, given the massive over capacities provided by us,” Airtel said.

(Also see: Government Planning Platform for Call Drop Customer Feedback)

Jio has already provided Airtel their future requirements for capacities at 100 million customers.

“As and when they ramp up their current subscriber base, we will further augment capacities ahead of time, as we have always done,” the statement said.

Airtel maintained that it was committed to comply with all TRAI regulations and Interconnect Agreements in letter.

“At the same time we request TRAI to examine the incredible asymmetry of calls terminating on the Airtel network from Jio due to free services being offered by Jio. This continued asymmetry will degrade the customer experience for Airtel customers over time and melt down networks,” it added.

Airtel Says Price Drops Possible, But Not Free Voice Calls Like Reliance Jio

Airtel Says Price Drops Possible, But Not Free Voice Calls Like Reliance JioIndia’s largest mobile operator Bharti Airtel has indicated that entry of newcomer Reliance Jio could lead to lowering of prices to some extent, but ruled out across-the-board free voice calls for all mobile plans.

Terming the telecom sector as a “brutally competitive market”, Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO, India and South Asia, Bharti Airtel, said that while competitors kept the company on its toes, it was not “obsessed” with them.

“If the question is are you going to see price erosion…I think given that you have a new entrant on the horizon, yes, you will see some price erosion. Because that is the game new entrant will play,” Vittal told PTI.

Reliance Jio had stormed its way into the telecom sector by announcing a Jio Welcome Offer beginning September 4 with free voice calls and data on Jio mobile phone services that will be available till December 31, for those users who buy subscription by December 3.

In September, while announcing the launch, billionaire Mukesh Ambani had said that voice calling on Jio will be free for life and data would be charged at rock-bottom rates after the ‘welcome offer’ ends.

Vittal pointed out that while Bharti Airtel had already offered free voice calls on its Infinity plan (priced at Rs. 999), a similar freebie would not be possible across all segments of the market.

(Also see: Airtel Says Hopeful of ‘Objective Outcome’ on Reliance Jio PoI Penalty)

“There will be a large number of customers who are on basic feature phones and low end smartphones who will want to buy services differently. They will want to de-couple voice and data. Equally, there will be a set of market where they will want (it) bundled…If a guy is not paying for data at all, he will pay for something,” he said.

Asked if the company will be announcing voice free for life, just like rival Jio has, Vittal said, “If you are only buying voice, how will one do that?”

Terming the market structure as “dual”, Vittal said that the company would play at the bottom end, where people want de-coupled pricing between voice and data, and at the high end which prefers bundled offers like ‘Infinity’.

On how long Bharti anticipate the competitive pressures to last, Vittal said the market will continue to be competitive, but exuded confidence that the company “will compete”.

“With competitive intensity you could see some pressure on the mobile revenue growth because if pricing comes down it may not all get compensated by volume. That is something we have to be prepared for… we have to see how we grow our other businesses faster and if pricing comes down, how do we create more capacity, so customer experience does not degrade,” he said

Nokia Completes Alcatel-Lucent Acquisition

Nokia Completes Alcatel-Lucent AcquisitionFinnish telecom giant Nokia on Wednesday said it had finalised its acquisition of former French-American rival Alcatel-Lucent.

Nokia, the world’s number one mobile phone maker for more than a decade until 2012, had struck a deal to buy the other firm in April 2015 but has struggled to buy up the remaining shares to gain full control of the company.

By January it held a controlling interest of around 76 percent, but a public exchange offer to buy the rest dragged on as small shareholders held out for a better price.

“The closing of the deal today, marked by the purchase of all outstanding Alcatel-Lucent shares, means Nokia will now start eliminating the complexity and costs of running two separate public companies,” Nokia said in a statement.

Nokia has been going through a process of radical transformation over the last few years.

In 2013 it bought 50 percent of its network activities from Germany’s Siemens, and the following year it divested from its previously world-leading mobile phone business.

It sold its mapping unit Here in 2015 as well as striking the deal to buy Alcatel-Lucent, which had only recorded one year of annual profit since its inception in 2006.

Nokia remains in the red, though it said last week that it had managed to reduce net losses to EUR 125 million ($135 million or roughly 926 crores) in the third quarter, after a EUR 665-million loss in the previous quarter ($725 million or roughly Rs. 4,927 crores).

Thanks to the Alcatel-Lucent acquisition, the company’s net sales grew by nearly 94 percent to EUR 5.89 billion from EUR 3.04 billion for Nokia alone a year before.

Nokia was the world’s top mobile phone maker between 1998 and 2011 but was overtaken by South Korean rival Samsung after failing to respond to the rapid rise of smartphones.

Bharti Airtel Reports Drop in Quarterly Profit

Bharti Airtel Reports Drop in Quarterly Profit

Bharti Airtel Ltd, India’s largest telecom operator, said its profit fell 22.2 percent in the December quarter, missing analyst estimates as finance costs rose.

Consolidated net profit fell to 11.17 billion rupees ($163.84 million) in its fiscal third quarter to December 31, from 14.37 billion rupees a year earlier, the company said.

Analysts on average had expected a net profit of 12.64 billion rupees, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters.

Bharti Airtel, headed by Indian billionaire Sunil Mittal, said total revenue rose 3.7 percent to 240.66 billion rupees.

Vodafone Rolls Out 4G Mobile Services in Kolkata

Vodafone Rolls Out 4G Mobile Services in Kolkata

Vodafone India, a leading telecom services provider, on Monday rolled out its 4G services in Kolkata.

The company said it will expand its services to cover Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru by March.

At present, the high speed network can be accessed in prominent business and residential corridors of the city, including BBD Bag, Park Street, Alipore, Ballygunge, Salt Lake Sector 5, Airport and EM bypass.

The roll-out will be completed across all parts of Kolkata by June, 2016, in a phased manner.

The launch follows the successful rollout of the company’s 4G services in Kerala and Karnataka, officials said in Kolkata.

Built on the efficient 1800MHz band, the state-of-the-art network will enable 4G customers to access Internet via mobile with speeds across a range of smart devices including Mobile Wi-Fi.

It would also enable faster download/upload of videos and music, seamless video chats to enjoy and greater ease in using their favourite apps.

Customers will also adore features like high definition video streaming, mobile gaming and two-way video calling.

Vodafone is also the first and only telecom service provider to currently offer international roaming on 4G to its India customers visiting Britain, Germany, Romania, Spain and the Netherlands

Launching the services, company’s chief operating officer Naveen Chopra said the initial response from customers who have experienced the 4G services in Kerala and Karnataka “has been positive and encouraging”.

Reliance Jio, RCom to Sign Spectrum Sharing Deal Next Week

Reliance Jio, RCom to Sign Spectrum Sharing Deal Next Week: Report

Reliance Communications (RCom) and Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJIL) are likely to sign spectrum trading and sharing agreements next week.

According to sources, as part of the agreement, RCom will receive about Rs. 4,500 crore from RJIL for sale of 800-850 MHz spectrum in 12 circles. The proceeds from the sale will be used to pay liberalisation fees to Department of Telecom (DoT).

Post trading, both the companies will share spectrum in all 22 circles, the source added.

DoT on December 22 had issued a notice and sought about Rs. 5,600 crore from RCom for liberalising spectrum in 16 circles Also, the operator had been asked to submit a bank guarantee of about Rs. 1,569 crore for one time spectrum charge (OTSC).

As the liberalisation fee is payable only for balance spectrum validity period, so the final amount to be paid by RCom is likely to be about Rs. 5,400 crore.

The source said RCom has to pay within one month of issue of notice, so the final amount to be paid is lower as they don’t have to pay from December 22 onwards but from the time its spectrum is liberalised, which is likely to be January 23.

Post the deal, RCom and RJIL will be only operators offering 4G LTE services on 800-850 MHz band nationwide.

Regarding the one time spectrum fee, sources said payment is not required as it has been stayed by High Court and the matter is sub-judice.

When contacted, Reliance Communications declined to comment.

Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani had announced RCom was tying up trading and sharing of spectrum with Mukesh Ambani- led Reliance Jio including for the much-awaited 4G services.

Addressing the annual general meeting, Anil Ambani had said both the companies were at “an advanced stage of discussion” for finalising a nationwide spectrum trading and sharing arrangement.

RCom had applied for liberalising its 800 MHz spectrum in 20 circles a few months back. The company, however, is yet to receive any notice for the remaining four circles, where market determined price is not available.

The four circles are Kerala, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

The DoT had already sought sectoral regulator Trai’s views on liberalisation of spectrum in circles where market determined price is not available.