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Better 3G services: the wait could be longer

Sunday May 29, 2011 12:32:20 PM, Priyanka Sahay, IANS

New Delhi: The promise of high-end phone services by mobile firms through the much-hyped third generation (3G) telecom technology seems to have hit a roadblock as customers complain of frequent call drops and inconsistent internet speeds.

Experts say it could take between six and nine months for the service to stabilise.

Anuj Kumar, a Delhi-based banker, preferred switching back to the 2G network after he got exasperated by deficient service and inconsistent network coverage.

"Problems of call drops increased once I switched to 3G network. The voice quality also became very poor. I was left with no option but to switch back to the basic network. In my line of job uninterrupted calls are a must," Kumar told IANS.

Pratibha Srivastava, a sales manager with a leading private bank, had similar grievance.

"The connectivity on the 3G network is very, very poor, especially when a person is on the move. While the network disconnects frequently, the voice quality is also not good at all," said Srivastava.

Among the nine-million odd people who are estimated to have opted for 3G services in the country, there are many others like Kumar and Srivastava who are facing similar problems with their services across the country.

The private telecom operators who shelled out billions for buying spectrum claim that every new technology needed some time for maturing and becoming consistent. According to them it was a matter of time for consumers to experience the promised quality of 3G.

But Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman J.S. Sarma does not agree with the claims of operators.
"It is high time customers start getting quality services for the money they are paying. You cannot go on saying that the problems are caused due to initial phase launch for so long. Such excuses can be accepted for a week or so," Sarma told IANS.

"We also need to look into what kind of investments these people are making," Sarma said and added that the telecom watchdog was looking into the matter and would come out with a quality check very soon.

Mahesh Uppal, a telecom analyst and director of consultancy ComFirst India, maintains the networks are having problems because they were moving customers from 2G to 3G.

"Even I am having problems with the 3G network. I feel that this is because the networks are in a transition phase. Therefore some hiccups are probably expected. These companies are moving into 3G in an incremental way," Uppal told IANS.

On the other hand the telecom operators say that every new technology takes time to find its feet and so it is with 3G.

"You have to realise integrating new technology with an older one takes time -- 3G is like going back to square one. Operators almost have to build an entire network," said Rajan Matthews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI).

"The operators will take almost 6-9 months to straighten out things."

Though the telecom watchdog does not have a record on the specific number of customers who have switched from 2G to 3G so far, some telecom operators have revealed their data individually.

While the dominant player Airtel currently has over two million 3G subscribers, Idea Cellular has one million across the country. On the whole, there are 811 million mobile phone subscribers in the country.

Jaideep Ghosh, director, KPMG advisory services, too, agrees with operators. Since the technology was new to India and companies were still in the implementation phase, some technical glitches were bound to come up, he said.

"Some operators launched it six months back and some are still in the process across all the circles. So it will be too early to a conclude that the services are good or bad," Ghosh told IANS. "We should wait till all operators launch full-fledged services."

A few operators also blame scarcity of spectrum to be a hitch for the service providers not being able to perform efficiently.

"The larger problem is not 2G or 3G but spectrum allocation. If you do not have enough spectrum, how would you be able to provide better services?" queried a senior official with a leading telecom operator.

Tata DoCoMo was the first private player to launch the 3G services in the country -- in November 2010. Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and Idea Cellular are among the other operators who have launched their 3G services across the country.

Third generation telephony services are supposed to allow faster connectivity with some new applications such as Internet TV, video-on-demand, audio-video calls and high-speed data exchange.

(Priyanka Sahay can be reached at and





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