Claim call quality will drop; DoT says public health is as important as coverage

Get ready for more call drops and a dip in quality of mobile services as operators are being forced to comply with the new radiation norms.

The norms, which will come into effect from September 1, require operators to reduce the electromagnetic radiation emanating from every tower by one-tenth of existing permissible limits.

Mobile companies have told the Government that they would have to reduce tower density in thickly populated urban areas if they have to meet the new norms. They claim that this will result in blank patches in networks where the coverage would be inadequate.

“The new radiation norm will lead to a lot of complications for operators as it will create large exclusion zones with deteriorated coverage. Operators may not be able to meet the TRAI-specified quality of service levels if this done,” said an industry representative. Both the Cellular Operators’ Association of India and the Association of Unified Telecom Services Providers of India have written to the Government seeking to trash the new norms.

DoT rejects claims

But the Department of Telecom is unlikely to buy the operators’ claims. An internal document on random tests done by the Telecom Engineering Centres, the technical wing of the DoT, shows that no more than 5 per cent of the existing towers could get impacted. According to experts in the DoT, the operators can easily plug the gaps in these limited locations through new technologies. “No relaxation should be provided to the operators on this count. Ensuring public health and safety is also as important for department as increasing mobile coverage,” an internal DoT note stated.

Handset-makers

But handset makers such as Nokia and Samsung could get some relief as the DoT may give one more year for them to comply with the norms. According to the new guidelines, radiation from mobile phones will have to be brought down by 50 per cent of the existing norms. The rules also make it mandatory for handset-makers to display the radiation level on the handset.

Phone makers, including Nokia, have told the Government that they would need more time to implement the norms as a large number of models are based on existing radiation levels. The DoT will give them time till September 2013 to comply with the revised radiation levels.

thomas.thomas@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on July 27, 2012)
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