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Poor infrastructure resulting in call drops in India

Despite 4000,000 towers installed across the country, problems relating to poor infrastructure such as insufficient towers still persist, according to the Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association.
Written by V L Srinivasan, Contributor

One of the major reasons for mobile phone users experiencing call drops in India is the unavailability of adequate mobile towers in a region.

Currently as many as 400,000 towers are in place -- including 60,000 installed in the last few months -- but the growing number of mobile phone users and high data flow is causing customer inconvenience and call drops.

The inability of service providers to install additional cell sites and the shutting down of operational cell sites is leading to serious connectivity issues for the customers. This is resulting in coverage gaps, call drops, network congestion, poor Quality of Services (QoS), increase in overall cost, and complexity of the telecom network.

According to the Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA), there are several challenges in installing telecom towers, including restriction on location of cell sites; high fees being levied, and at times, multiple levies like registration/sharing/renewal; delays in obtaining clearances; apprehension among people over electromagnetic field (EMF) emissions from citizens encouraging local bodies to take coercive action; and high taxes on cellular towers.

"There are some complicated, cumbersome, and time-consuming procedures besides problems in obtaining Right of Way clearance, misplaced concerns regarding structural safety and integrity, and erratic and non-availability of power supply," said Tilak Raj Dua, Direction General of the TAIPA.

The Indian government has taken several initiatives to put an end to the problem, like installation of cell sites on its land and buildings, asking the states to follow the same, and also creating awareness and allaying fears about the radiation scare.

"The Department of Telecommunications has already reduced the EMF radiations by adopting strict limits for radiation from the towers, which is one tenth of the international norms and it is amongst the most stringent in the world. Further, there has been no scientific evidence of harmful effects of EMF on human health," Dua pointed out.

He also felt that all states should permit for establishing the towers which will reduce the coverage gaps and improve connectivity and quality of service for consumers.

However, a recent survey by RedMango Analytics said that reception of the signal from the tower to the mobile or vice versa, resulting in a call being dropped though lack of mobile towers, was not the primary reason for the problem. "Only 4 percent of calls were dropped in poor coverage areas, while 59.1 percent take place due to poor quality and 36.9 percent due to network faults," the report said.

The survey, which was conducted in 20 cities including metros such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, and Jammu covering over 10,000 calls, found that call drops were as high as 4.73 percent as against Indian standards of 2 percent and global standards of 3 percent.

Most call drops occur due to interference and other quality-related issues. While lack of spectrum and high user concentration may be to blame for some of these problems, network optimisation can result in a significant reduction in call drop problems.

The study also said that users of high range smartphones such as Samsung Galaxy S5, iPhone 6, and higher have the lowest call drops, while those using mid-range smartphones such as Samsung Galaxy Grand, Micromax A311, and iPhone 5C experience up to 22 percent more call drops than high range smartphone users.

Those using low range smartphones (Samsung Duos and iPhone 4S) experience up to 67 percent more call drops than users with high range smartphones, the study added.

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