TRAI Directs Airtel, Vi and Jio to Improve Service Quality Immediately

Amid rising instances of service quality issues and consumer complaints, TRAI has asked telecom operators to report call drop and outage data at the state level also and take immediate steps to “demonstrate visible improvement” in quality of service and connectivity experience for consumers across the country. On the issue of pesky promotional calls and messages, TRAI said telcos will be asked to implement an AI/ML (Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning) tool which has been found to be effective in detecting and blocking spam that is pushed by unregistered telemarketers through telephone numbers (10 digits numbers).

This new comprehensive tool (currently being tested by Vodafone Idea) is expected to be implemented in about two months by the industry, reducing the menace of unsolicited promotional messages, TRAI Chairman PD Vaghela said.

TRAI officials met telecom companies including Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea on Friday to review service quality issues, norms for 5G services as well as on unsolicited commercial communications.

The regulator made it clear to players that more stringent service benchmarks are on the anvil when it comes to calling quality parameters, and that a consultation process will be initiated by TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) in the coming months for this.

TRAI’s diktat to telecom companies to improve service quality is bound to cheer mobile customers, irked by call drops and patchy networks. While 5G call data will be reported under the current system for now, separate QoS (Quality of Service) indicators for these next-generation services will come up eventually.

“We have been examining the issue of call drops and service quality, and there has been a rise in complaints also after 5G implementation. We have told operators to improve the quality of service immediately, whether or not it is due to the rollout of 5G services,” Vaghela told reporters after the meeting.

He added: “Time has come to relook at the parameters completely.” While an overhaul of call quality benchmarks is on the anvil, companies even now will have to report call drop and outage data at a state level, and perhaps at a later stage at the district level as well.

This means that the data reported will be more granular and detailed (for 29 states) as against the current practice of data reported at the level of Licenced Service Areas (22 LSAs in all) and averaged on a quarterly basis.

The state-level reporting will ensure that the problem areas and patchy networks in certain States, especially North East, can be clearly identified, and corrective action can be taken by players. While such detailed reporting (at state level) will start immediately, making it part of QoS norms, and imposing financial disincentives will take some time, Vaghela said.

“We have decided today that we will also monitor State level quality of service,” Vaghela pointed out.

The parameters will be made more tighter going forward, he said adding a consultation paper will be taken out in this regard.

“The authority has directed telecom service providers (TSPs) to take urgent steps to demonstrate visible improvement in quality of service and quality of experience by consumers. TSPs were asked to analyse the issue of call muting and one-way speech and take corrective action on priority,” TRAI said in a statement.

While rolling out 5G network, operators will need to ensure that there is least disturbance or degradation of service quality of existing telecom services. During the meeting, telecom operators admitted that there were some “problems” during the rollout of 5G, but assured that those have now been sorted out.

“TSPs were further informed that TRAI is closely monitoring the incidences of long duration network outages. Such outages adversely affect quality of services and consumer experience,” TRAI said in a statement.

All the telecom providers were asked to report such outages to the regulator in any district or State. TRAI may consider bringing suitable regulation in this regard, if required, the statement added.

TRAI also asked players to plan and implement systems for online data collection for QoS benchmarks and their processing to generate performance reports with License Service Area, State level or lower granularity.

“Considering the scale and the size of the network being set up for rollout of 5G services, and important use cases being developed by different industry verticals, TRAI asked TSPs to implement systems for internal QoS monitoring…on 24×7 and 360-degree basis,” it said.

The exploitation of network features as per standard and adoption of AI/ML techniques for service quality monitoring and management was also suggested, TRAI statement said.

During the meeting, the regulator also took stock of issues around unsolicited commercial communications (UCC), and emphasized the need to curb instances of telemarketers misusing phone numbers to send out promotional messages.

“We are also going to write to all the key Ministries and Departments, RBI and other regulators…because they have a significant influence on banks, financial institutions and other stakeholders. We are going to ask them to take action with regard to cleaning of message templates and removing unnecessary headers,” Vaghela said.

States and Departments are being sensitised as they also engage telemarketers for sending out important information, say on benefits of various schemes.

The telecom regulator on Thursday had issued directions to telecom operators to act swiftly to stop the misuse of headers and message templates, as it came down heavily on unauthorised, pesky promotional messages by telemarketers.

To stop such misuse and curb unwanted messages, the regulator has directed access service providers (telecom operators) to reverify all registered headers and message templates on Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) platform and block all unverified headers and message templates within 30 and 60 days, respectively.

“We are working on creating a system based on AI/ML. Vodafone Idea has already implemented a sandbox experiment and it is successful, so we will use that. AI/ML allows identification of telemarketers or spammers using 10 digit numbers and those can be blocked…in next two months we should be able to implement that all over the country,” Vaghela said.

One of the telecom operators, attending the TRAI’s QoS review meeting, complained that service quality is also being affected by some low-quality handsets in the market.

TRAI has advised players to write to the Telecom Department, to flag the issue of low-quality handsets.

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