Mobile Subscribers Struggle Poor Networks, Low Data Speeds and Services: No Grievance Redress
India, which is one of the largest markets for telecom companies, especially for mobile services, is witnessing a decline in subscribers. At the same time, subscriber complaints are skyrocketing about poor service and network quality of all mobile service providers -- Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, as well as state-run telcos in India. 
 
Inspite of paying higher charges for fourth generation (4G) services, subscribers complain that they neither receive the 4G network signal (often enough) nor the desired download speed. So much so that it is getting difficult to even download a photo on WhatsApp or files from your email account. 
 
A simple test will reveal false claims about 4G service by telecom companies. If you set your mobile network settings to long term evolution (LTE) or 4G-only mode, you can easily figure out how often you are without a network signal.
 
However, if you switch to LTE/3G/2G auto mode, you will immediately receive a network signal. Unfortunately, even on a 4G network signal, there is no guarantee that you would actually receive 4G data speed. This problem applies to all mobile operators. 
 
According to the standard defined by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a 4G network should be capable of a download speed of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) for long term evolution (LTE) and 150Mbps, for LTE-Advanced and upload speed of up to 50Mbps. Most Indian mobile subscribers will tell you that the 4G data speed they receive is in few kilobits (Kbps) and almost never in Mbps. 
 
If you ask your mobile service-provider about the poor quality network signal or miniscule data speed you hear many excuses. These include, network coverage issues (I still am unable to understand what exactly this means), higher number of users, number of apps, especially heavy data consuming apps like music or video streaming being used simultaneously by multiple users, and the distance between the user and base trans-receiver station or node (tower). They give these reasons while making tall claims of providing 4G network and great data speed (!) across the country. 
 
Here are some tweets posted by mobile subscribers of three major private operators Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, and government owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) about poor networks, lower data speeds and services…
 
 
 
 
 
According to data released by TRAI, as on November 2019, number of wireless subscribers, including 2G, 3G and 4G, declined to 1,154.39 million from 1,183.40 million in October 2019, thereby registering a monthly decline rate of 2.43%. Wireless subscription in urban areas declined to 647.33 million at the end of November 2019 from 662.92 million as on October 2019. Similarly, number of mobile subscribers in rural area also came down to 507.26 million in November from 520.48 million in October 2019. Monthly decline rates of urban and rural wireless subscription are 2.35% and 2.54%, respectively.
 
 
There could be two reasons for the decline in number of mobile subscribers. One, the about 40% increase in pre-paid tariff by all telcos while restricting free calls through fair usage policy (FUP). Second, subscribers either preferring to port their number to other operator instead of buying a new subscriber identity module (SIM).   
 
 
The data from TRAI shows that during November, 2019, about 4.88 million subscribers submitted their requests for mobile number portability (MNP). With this, the cumulative MNP requests increased to 466.62 million at the end of November from 461.73 million as on October 2019 since implementation of MNP. 
 
Also while there may be more mobile subscribers on record, but more than 15% are inactive or not in use. Out of the 1,154.59 million total wireless subscribers, only 84.8% or 979.09 million wireless subscribers were active on the date of peak VLR in November 2019, data from TRAI shows.
 
If you ask whether the subscriber gets for what she has paid to the mobile service providers and majority will reply in negative. Almost all subscriber witness poor network coverage or signal, which affects call quality and data speed, and frequent call drops across telcos.   
 
One of main reasons for this is poor or outdated infrastructure. And this applies to both private as well public sector units BSNL and MTNL. Telecom service providers had paid huge money to buy spectrum from the government for all 2G, 3G and 4G networks. However, before they could even fully recover the cost for buying spectrum and establishing infrastructure like mobile towers, telcos were forced for upgrade. So without even recovering costs for 2G, telcos paid heavily for 3G and then for 4G. They will again pay more money to buy 5G spectrum. 
 
While telcos were paying huge cost for newer things, they kept alive old infrastructure aiming to recover its costs. As is known, 2G has widespread coverage across India followed by 3G and 4G. Mobile service providers say by keeping 2G alive and kicking, they make sure that the subscriber at least is able to make phone calls and basic internet usage. 
 
Last year in October, Gopal Vittal, chief executive (CEO) of Airtel has told analysts that the telco is in the process of phasing out 3G and plans to focus solely on 2G and 4G. “2G network continues to fetch substantial revenues for Airtel. 2G still has a runway for next few years...we plan to shut down 3G because the revenue from 3G devices was very insignificant; so we took that call,” Mr Vittal was quoted as saying by Mint.
 
Some telcos have claimed that they had switched off older networks and now have only latest network infrastructure. But this claim does not even hold true even in metro and tier-I cities. Elsewhere, the subscriber receives the network that is available at that time, which most of the times is 2G or 3G. If you think, this applies only to rural area, then do re-check. Even in metro like Mumbai, there are certain areas where you will only get 2G or 3G networks. 
 
 
One may wonder, if there is any solution for this? Unfortunately, there is none. The government, the department of telecom (DoT) and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) try pushing telcos to newer network without even considering the cost factors associated with upgrades. 
 
The National Digital Communications Policy-2018 (NDCP-2018) approved by the Indian government on 26 September 2018 talks about acceleration in migration to 4G and 5G as well as improvement in broadband speeds. For accelerating migration of wireless telecom networks towards 4G and 5G technologies and improve broadband speeds, the policy aims to facilitate fibre to-the-tower programme to enable fiberisation of at least 60% of telecom towers. 
 
Under this policy, the government also aims to provide universal broadband connectivity (and not the download speed) at 50 Mbps to every citizen. It has kept a target of providing 1 gigabits per second (Gbps) connectivity to all Gram Panchayats by 2020 and 10 Gbps by 2022. 
 
While the aim of government is brave to say least, it does not take into consideration the ground reality. So unless, issues like improvement in network coverage, increase in network capacity to accommodate more users and quality of signals, are not resolved there is no hope for connectivity speeds of even 10 Mbps for every subscriber. 
 
Hope the government and the regulator are listening and would act fast. Else it will prove similar to bolting the door after the horse has bolted!   
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    COMMENTS

    saaiebabak

    1 day ago

    I think that polity in power (BJP Government) is deliberately allowing telecoms to loot the public in India. I feel that I am wasting my money subscribing JIO & Airtel mobile services. The international standard for 4G VoLTE maximum mobile internet speed is 300 Mbps. But we are not getting even the 2G speed. I get a speed between 500 bytes to 250 kbps on an average on JIO as well as Airtel. Many a time speed test application of TRAI do not start due to low speed and as a result it displays "NO INTERNET". Government of India is planning to launch 5G. what is the use of 5G when 4G VoLTE is a failure? How can India develop without efficient internet services? Earlier telecoms had voice and data plans separately. Now they have combo plans only. Thus public is forced to buy these combo plans without any internet service. It appears to me that this is the biggest scam of Modi government. There is no option for consumers except to go to courts.

    This comment is posted on 22 Feb 2020.

    Newme

    4 weeks ago

    To be fair even in USA we have complaints of network coverage and speed.
    There are many options in USA through MVNO that concept is absent in India.

    Prashant

    4 weeks ago

    Would have appreciated if the long article had included data from DOT - of missed calls, their findings on 4G connectivity (hard numbers.)
    The following report of 2018! has good info on numbers. Situation should have improved now. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/internet/still-buffering-india-low-on-4g-speed/articleshow/65001463.cms?from=mdr
    I regularly watch Amazon Prime / Netflix through wifi at home - in a distant suburb of Mumbai - through one of the above operators connection, and never had issue. I don't dispute that others experience will be opposite to mine.
    But my main grievance is something else.
    A small number of instances - in Ola / Uber pricing - OR - DTH rates - OR - Network Speed - OR - Swiggy / Zomato - OR - whatever - highlighted sensationally by media, forces Government hand, to intervene, and then we see more mess all around.
    My DTH bill has gone down by 50% after last year amendment, as the prices forced me to be selective, but clamour has again forced DOT to intervene more microscopically in how DTH operators levy la carte vs pool rates.
    A larger perspective in articles will be appreciated for readers to make an informed opinion / help guide policy making / not vitiate the economics of a business.

    SC stays NCLAT order on RoC plea for changes in Tata-Mistry verdict

    In a major development in the Tata Sons-Cyrus Mistry row, the Supreme Court on Friday stayed the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal's (NCLAT) order dismissing the Registrar of Company's (RoC) plea to modify its verdict on the Tata Sons matter.

    Tata Sons had challenged in the apex court the NCLAT's January 6 order on conversion of Tata Sons from a public to a private company.

    Agreeing to hear the Tata Sons' plea, the apex court on Friday issued a notice to the parties concerned. The three judge bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde will hear the matter along with the main plea filed by Tata Sons against NCLAT's verdict.

    The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) had on January 6 rejected the plea by the RoC to modify the appellate tribunal's judgement in the Tata-Mistry case.

    The NCLAT had in its December 18 verdict termed the RoC's decision to allow conversion of Tata Sons from a public to private company as illegal, while the RoC had filed a plea at the appellate tribunal to remove the word "illegal" from its verdict, among other observations.

    The two-judge bench headed by NCLAT Chairman Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya had observed that the judgment did not cast any aspersions on the RoC.

    Posting the matter for hearing after four weeks, the Supreme Court had, on January 10, stayed the NCLAT order reinstating Cyrus Mistry as Tata Sons Chairman. Chief Justice S.A. Bobde said the NCLAT had granted a prayer not made.

    However, Mistry has already made a statement that he is no longer interested in taking up the chairmanship of Tata Sons.

    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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    NCLAT Halts Involvency Against Raheja Developers, Asks Board to Manage Affairs
    In a major relief for the promoters of realty group Raheja Developers, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT) has halted the insolvency proceedings against the company and has also ordered the transfer of the company's management to its Board of Directors.
     
    The developer had moved the appellate tribunal after the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) held the company to be in default of its obligations to two home buyers who had approached the tribunal.
     
    "The aforesaid facts also make it clear that the 1st and 2nd Respondents (the home buyers) filed the application under Section 7, fraudulently with malicious intent for the purpose other than for the resolution or liquidation and they knocked at the doors of the adjudicating authority for refund of money and not for the Flat/ premises and thereby wanted to jump ship and really get back the amount, by way of coercive measure," the order said.
     
    The three-judge bench headed by NCLAT Chairman S.J. Mukhopadhaya also said: "The appellant 'Corporate Debtor' (company) is released from all the rigours of 'moratorium' and is allowed to function through its Board of Directors from immediate effect." 
     
    The 'interim resolution professional' will hand over the assets and records to the Board of Directors, it said.
     
    The bench further observed that in the language of the Supreme Court, the allottees in a large number of cases are speculative investors and not a person who is genuinely interested in purchasing a flat. 
     
    "They do not want to go ahead with its obligation to take possession of the apartment under RERA, but want to jump ship and really get back, by way of this coercive measure, monies already paid by it."
     
    Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.
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