Leading operators today sought intervention of the Department of Telecom (DoT) and sector regulator TRAI on the issue pertaining to sealing of mobile towers by three Municipal Corporations of Delhi, saying this "unilateral activity" is leading to increase in call drops.
"It must be noted that with every 40 sites being sealed, there is an average of 20 per cent increase in call drops. In the last two days itself, the MCD has gone ahead and sealed 16 sites across Delhi. In the last month, 70 sites have been sealed," country's top six telecom operators said in a joint letter.
The letter was jointly written by Bharti Airtel Joint Managing Director and CEO Gopal Vittal, Vodafone India CEO and MD Sunil Sood, Idea Cellular's Himanshu Kapania, Reliance Communications CEO for Consumer Business Gurdip Singh, Sistema Shyam CEO Sergey Savchenko and Tata Teleservices MD N Srinath.
This is the second letter from telecom companies to government authorities in a month seeking their intervention to de-seal mobile towers being locked by local bodies. The letter said that sites have been shut down in Mumbai also due to arbitrary actions by municipal corporation and resident welfare associations.
"In many instances, the MCD has been sealing the Telecom Towers despite operators having the due permissions and / or after having encashed the requisite fee. Further, the orders of the Delhi High Court to not seal the sites where there are due permissions have been ignored," the letter said.
The CEOs said that MCDs have not implemented the High Court order to de-seal some of the sites. It said that in the last year alone, about 1,700 sites have been shut down all over India. "...we are constrained to bring to your notice that despite your good efforts and intervention to assist the Operators deal with the issue of call drops, this continuing unilateral activity of the Delhi Municipalities of sealing our cell sites will cause increase in call drops and inconvenience to consumers," the letter said.
Call drops during peak hours have increased about two-fold in one year across the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also expressed concern over the call drop issue and asked the telecom minister to take all possible measures to address the problem as soon as possible.
"The industry has been mandated by your good-self and the Hon'ble Prime Minister to ensure no call drops, but the MCD actions are at cross purposes with this objective and hamper the efforts of the industry to address the issue," the letter said. Both, the government and Trai have said that telecom operators need to invest in their network to address call drop problem.
"...we shall continue our investment and optimisation programme. We are hopeful that with your kind support, we will find immediate relief of de-sealing sites and through dialogue find lasting solution to this issue," the CEOs said.