Trai is planning to resume the independent drives to check call drops from this month

Telecom regulator Trai is likely to resume from this month its independent drive tests to check call drops and service quality of operators.

Telecom regulator Trai is likely to resume from this month its independent drive tests to check call drops and service quality of operators, after a gap of more than five months. "Independent drive tests are going to begin. Actually, there was some gap (problem) which has been removed...they should start probably from this month on," Trai Chairman R S Sharma told.

While the telecom operators submit performance monitoring reports to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) regularly, the regulator also undertakes audit and assessment of service quality through independent agencies. The agencies conduct sample 'drive tests' across various cities in the country, as part of audit and assessment of the operators' performance. The independent drive tests are distinct from the operator- assisted tests, Sharma said.

"We were doing drive tests in 11-12 cities, we will be doing it in more cities (this time). This will be different from the operator-assisted tests," he added. The operator-assisted drive test captures real-time data to monitor the level of call drops and voice quality, similar to Trai's independent drive tests. However, unlike independent drive tests that are conducted by the regulator itself, the 'operator-assisted' tests are conducted in coordination with telecom service providers.

The operator-assisted tests, a new concept, involves the telecom firms' equipment and costs, with the regulator monitoring and supervising the entire process. That said, all drive tests - be it independent or operator-assisted tests - assess the performance of networks on various quality benchmarks, including call set-up success rate, call drop, blocked calls and Radio Frequency (RF) coverage.

The last round of independent drive tests were conducted by Trai in Amritsar, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Chandigarh, Mumbai, Lucknow, Kanpur, Ahmedabad, Ranchi, Darjeeling, Sikkim and Trivandrum in 2016. During the last few months that Trai did not undertake independent tests, the operator-assisted tests were conducted in cities including Mathura (UP-West circle), Jaisalmer, (Rajasthan), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh) and Mangalore (Karnataka) and others.

Both the regulator and the Department of Telecom (DoT) have been keeping a vigil on service quality issues such as call drops and call failures through initiatives like drive tests and automated call system. Last year, when instances of call drops spiked, the government and the regulator made a co-ordinated effort to tackle the issue through deliberations with the industry.

The Telecom Department has set up an IVRS or automated call system, which makes random calls to subscribers to check the status of call drops. As part of efforts to keep the call quality in check, the Trai plans to roll-out, by the month-end, an app that will enable subscribers to rate the service quality of a phone call, once the call is complete. The data will, thereafter, be analyzed by the regulator.

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