Expressing "serious concern" over the problem of frequent call drops, government today ordered a special audit of mobile networks and said regulator TRAI has been asked to formulate a system of "incentives and disincentives" for their service quality.
Coming down heavily on mobile operators, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said they have been provided "ample amount of spectrum" and it was their "job and responsibility" to upgrade the networks.
However, he agreed that the limited availability of sites for putting up mobile towers on radiation and other concerns was affecting the service quality -- a reason often cited by telecom operators for the call drops.
The minister said radiation rules implemented in India are 10 times more stringent than international standards. Asked if there will be any penalty levied on telecom operators for call drops, Prasad said: "We have sent request to TRAI to make a structure of incentive and disincentive."
While TRAI is empowered to lay down standards of quality of service and ensuring that they are followed, "the issue of call drops has remained a matter of serious concern and government is of the opinion that the efforts of TRAI would need to be supplemented with action by the Department (of Telecom)", Prasad said at a press conference.
Ample amount of radiowaves were provided in the spectrum auction held in March this year, he said, adding, "Government of India would expect telecom operator to properly upgrade their network. It's their job and responsibility".
Prasad asked operators to conduct a special drive for optimum network utilisation and monitor it from time to time. "I have directed the Department to conduct a special audit of quality of service parameters focussed on network performance.
It will be done by TERM (Telecom Enforcement, Resource and Monitoring) cell of our Department," he said. The audit will help in understanding the problem, nature of standards being maintained and also suggest how the situation can be improved, he added. In phase I, the audit will be carried out by DoT in all metros and state capitals.
The minister, who took a review of the issue, said the rapid growth of data traffic in cities and sharp growth in smartphones had led to congestion in the telecom networks. Citing various court rulings and World Health Organisation findings, he said the "issue of call drops and campaign to remove BTS' (mobile towers) cannot go on hand in hand.
If anyone is willing to suggest any tangible evidence of adverse effect from radiation, then I am going to look into it. The issue is not whether there is radiation or not, the issue is whether it is dangerous or not."
DoT will approach the Ministry of Urban Development and New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) to seek use of government buildings for installation of mobile towers on specific terms and conditions. "WHO has referred 25,000 studies till date.
Current evidence does not confirm existence of any health consequence from exposure to EMF radiation," he said. Most of the communication happens inside buildings and the government is making effort to increase in-building solutions (IBS) to address the call drop issue inside buildings, he said. "This will also reduce load on networks significantly. I will write Chief Ministers to encourage installation of IBS in government offices," Prasad said.