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9 November, 2018 09:57:28 AM

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Operators seek coordinated policy

Ensuring quality of services
Tareque Moretaza, Dhaka
Operators seek coordinated policy

Mobile phone operators have urged the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to formulate a coordinated policy on call drops and service quality for all telecom operators who have licences.

Pointing out that there are four primary reasons why call drops occur, they said such a policy is required in order to overcome these limitations. They urged the government to consider this aspect before implementing its guidelines on the quality of service.

The BTRC, however, said it has taken initiatives to ensure the quality of service after considering all these aspects.

The four main reasons for call drops are: cuts in fibre optic cables, spectrum shortage, shortages of spots for establishing telecommunications sites and densely populated city areas.

Mobile phone operators listed these reasons at a session titled ‘Quality of Service: Expectation and Reality’, organised by the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB). Apart from these reasons, weather and power shortages are also important factors causing call drops.

“Forty per cent of the entire network is currently managed through a microwave system while the remaining 60 per cent of the network is based on optical fibre,” said Shahed Alam, head of corporate and regulatory affairs at Robi.         

The performance of microwave-based networks declines on account of fog and rain, as a result of which network signals get weakened. On the other hand, bandwidth connections are disconnected when the optical fibre is cut. “Because of this, call drops can occur very frequently at the same time,” said Shahed Alam.         

When asked why optical fibres do not have alternative lines, he replied, “Optical fibres have an alternative line but according to the government’s rules governing the roads and highways, all the lanes are on the left side of the road. It is prohibited to cut roads on the right side, which is why it is not possible to do this. So, when a fibre optical cable is cut, then the alternative lines are cut as well,” Shahed Alam explained.

“Normally, optical fibres are installed three metres underneath the soil. In our country, however, the cable is installed only a little below the ground. For this reason, the line is often cut during road repairs,” he added.

“In about 90 per cent of the cases, we don’t get optical fibre cable connections in the places we want,” said Taimur Rahman, chief corporate and regulatory affairs officer at Banglalink.

Taimur Rahman also blamed power shortages, complex network running processes and the low quality of handsets for the call drops and poor service quality.

“Fibre optical cables were cut at least 15 to 20 times on different occasions every month last year, but now the figure has reached 50,” said Hossain Sadat, the acting chief corporate affairs officer of Grameenphone. However, he also said, “We are trying to provide better services. It is our liability to the customer. At the same time, the government, too, has to help us.”

Operators said there is a total of 185 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum in the country at present but mobile operators are currently using about 130 MHz. They demanded the unused spectrum be allocated at a minimal cost to help them improve service quality.  

Jahurul Haque, the acting chairman of the BTRC, said, “We must work to ensure customer satisfaction in our integrated initiative despite limited liabilities.” “We have heard the problems. We solve these on a regular basis,” he added.   

On October 22, 2018, the regulator published a report on call drops against the backdrop of the dissatisfaction expressed by commerce minister Tofail Ahmed in Parliament over the call drops of Grameenphone, the market leader.

According to the latest data, the country has registered a total of 222 crore minutes of call drops in a year, with market leader Grameenphone having the largest share of 103.43 crore minutes. Robi and Banglalink are in the second and third spots, with 76.18 crore minutes and 36.54 crore minutes respectively. The state-owned operator, Teletalk, has contributed six crore minutes. It has no payable minutes.

Officials of the telecom regulator said mobile operators have displayed reluctance to pay back call minutes as compensation despite this massive amount of call drops. During the past year—September last year to September this year—they paid back only 32 per cent of the payable minutes.

According to the regulations, if any customer faces more than two drops a day, he/she is entitled to compensation from the third drop onwards. They are to get one minute back for each case.

The telecom regulator introduced the compensation system in 2016 because of the huge number of call drops in different parts of the country, irrespective of operators. The BTRC also issued a letter yesterday (Thursday) to all the chief executive officers (CEOs) and managing directors of the mobile operators, asking them to keep the call drop rate within 2 per cent.

SI

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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