Nobody, it is safe to say, is happy about high call drop rates in India, or elsewhere.
In an audit of telecom companies performance for the quarter ended March 2015, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India found that 23 of 184 2G operators exceeded a maximum rate for call drops.
The regulator’s benchmark for call drops is three percent of calls, maximum. Three networks had a rate that exceeded two percent.
Aircel had call drops of more than three percent in 16 service areas with the rate as high as 18 percent in the North East. In comparison, BSNL had more than three percent call drops in five circles and Vodafone and MTS in one circle each.
Consumer perception arguably is far worse.
The reason is the definition used by mobile operators is very different from what a customer understands as a dropped call, said Kartik Raja, founder and managing director of Phimetrics Technologies.
“When I can’t hear you and the line just goes mute, but my phone shows that the call is still on, from a network point of view it is not a call drop,” he said. “For the network, only when they receive a message saying the call is dropped, it is counted as a call drop.”
Phimetrics conducted a study of telecom voice services, which began by defining a dropped call from a customer’s point of view rather than use a telecom company’s definition.
Using that method–when two users can’t hear each other for more than 10 seconds–the dropped call rates of two percent and three percent looked more like five percent and 15 percent, respectively.
A lack of tower sites is universally recognized as part of the problem. But it is is fair to note that relative bandwidth shortages are among the reasons the problem exists.
Total mobile spectrum in the United States is 608 MHz, for example. In France, 555 MHz is available. In Germany 615 MHz is available; in Italy 540 MHz; in Japan 500 MHz; in Spain 540 MHz. In India 220 MHz is available for mobile communications.
In the United States, that works out to 2.1 Hertz per subscriber; in France 9.3 Hertz per subscriber; in Spain 11.8 Hertz per subscriber. In Germany, 6.2 Hertz per subscriber is available.
In India, just 0.2 Hertz per subscriber is available. In other words, compared to many other markets, India has an order of magnitude to two orders of magnitude less usable bandwidth.