Telecom companies that provide below-par services could face penalties with telecom watchdog TRAI considering initiating steps to closely monitor the quality of services offered to customers.
According to TRAI chairman Nripendra Misra, the penalty could be levied for services not conforming to the minimum established standards relating to ''quality of service to customers''.
Misra told reporters at a open-house session that the regulator had already introduced financial disincentives for telecom companies that allow unsolicited communications.
He added that TRAI would go ahead with the next step of financial disincentives once the earlier step shows results in preventing such calls.
TRAI monitors mobile services on 10 quality parameters including call-drop rates, service access delays, blocked call rates, proportion of good quality voice calls, customer assistance response time, and complaint resolution.
The telecom watchdog had last week asked in a letter to mobile telephone operators to take steps to prevent network congestion and ensure prevention of abrupt disconnections. It asked operators to ensure the consumers are not inconvenienced due to service deficiencies.
It said consumers stand to lose monetarily on call drops.
Under the prevailing tariff plans, telecom companies charge consumers on a minimum 60 seconds pulse rate and if a consumer experiences a call drop after three seconds he is still liable to pay for the whole minute.
"Independent verifications of the quality of service of cellular mobile telephone networks carried out by the authority in the past confirm the validity of complaints," TRAI said in its letter.
"The authority sincerely expects that your enterprise take necessary steps to reduce the incidences of call drops in the network and also to provide to the authority by Feb 28, 2009 the measures taken to improve voice quality and drastic reduction in call drop rate," it added.
Misra, said that TRAI has sought the views of the companies on a proposal to introduce a three-year lock-in period for licence holding companies. He said there had been allegations that some companies were making huge unearned gains from transfer of licenses.
Speaking about the allocation of spectrum Misra said "TRAI had recommended auction of licence earlier and there is no change in stand," Misra said.
There was controversy recently over the issue of spectrum allocations to certain non-telecom companies on a first- come- first served basis.
Many of these companies that had been allocated spectrum went on to sell the licences earning handsome profits. The government has mooted a three to five years as a lock-in period in case of the dilution of the promoters' stake in a telecom company receiving spectrum. This is a bid to check misuse of spectrum.