Monday, December 26, 2005

Mobile blues

It has been an exponential growth for telecom in India in the last decade. Mobile telephony has seen a phenomenal growth in urban India. A lot of acquisitions and mergers happened and the tariffs are one of the cheapest. It was hailed as a revolution and has changed the way of Indians keeps in touch with each other. It is a ubiquitous gadget these days and an essential one. The advent of Reliance started a flood of cheap mobiles and made it affordable for the lower class. The private operators are boasting of millions of customers, they slash prices every month and they come up with a new scheme that will add a few thousand more to their fold. The latest is validity war. Tata telecom introduced the 2-year non-stop incoming without recharging, and others joined in too.
But has it really evolved? After a decade, it is still in it’s infancy. The recent criticism about the quality by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) highlights the plights of customers.
The other day I was commuting back to home after work when I got a call on my mobile. It was my wife calling to tell me that she wants to do a little shopping and want me to join with her. She want me to wait at a spot and as she was about to tell me where and when, the line broke. She dialed again and managed to convey the place the line went dead again. Before I get the timing. She dialed again and all I could hear was some static. I tried to call her but as usual all networks busy, or that’s what the cell displayed. It is the fifth time she managed to tell me when.
Even if at home, I had to place the cell near to the window or in the Balcony. If I get a call, I had to lean out of the window to get a clear voice. While on train, I had to drop many important calls due to the call-drop. One second you are talking and next second there is only silence. I have identified some spots where there is no signal despite it being a crowded, commercial and residential area.
I use an Airtel connection, and hope they notice this.
1. The stretch between Matunga & Mahim Rly stations.
2. between Santacruz & Vile Parle
3. Kandivli Rly Yard.
4. between Dahisar & Mira Road.
5. Naigaon Station.
6. Mumbai Mantralaya section.
Many a times my relatives complain that they could never reach me. I am always out of coverage area or switched off. When I try to make outgoing calls, especially in the evenings, I could never get it.
That’s not all. I had experienced some discrepancy in my account balance a few months ago and they were deducting some money from my balance every day. When I enquired about it they said they have some new scheme in which I can make outgoing calls at a lower rate. Once activated they would deduct a certain amount everyday. When I asked that guy who authorized the activation, he said they send an SMS and if not replied, they take it as consent! I was thinking like you need to SEND an authorization to activate something. NO SEND is a negative response. Don’t you think?
When the roaming service made free, they made it sure that every one got the message by advertising it all the railway stations and TV channels. And for two months there was no deduction. The third month I found some 25 Rs missing from my account. Upon enquiry the operator said it is Roaming charges. When I asked him about the absence of deduction for the last 2 months, he said it might be a computer error!! I hung up fearing that they might consider deducting retro-effective. As a computer expert, I know that computers don’t make mistakes. But It can be programmed to make! Or humans can make mistake!
The last blow came in November. Till then I could ring up a “customer executive” and tell him my grievances. Not anymore. They made customer care a paid service. A minute 6 Rs! This one too, as usual, was not informed. I was dialing customer care and I got a computer recorded life-less voice telling me that if you want to call the operator, the calls are paid service! So that avenue also closed. Now mobile telephony has really evolved, isn’t it? The next thing, may be, to revert back to charge the incoming. But a consumer is trapped there. If I want to switch operators, I had to opt for a new number. That would mean losing all contacts or I had to sit and inform all my contacts about the number change.
TRAI suggested the number portability and the private operators are vehemently opposing it. But for the users it is god-send.
The cartel of cell operators has so far resisted policies that harm them. There is no reason to believe things will change soon. So hang on, or rather, hang up!
Landlines are no better. Read Dilip's experience in this article


dhruv said...

what the heck? They are charging you Rs.6 per minute to talk to the customer executive? :O Is it from landlines or from cellphone? I personally use Orange (now Hutch) and they definitely dont charge anything for calling up their "hotline" (commonly known as customer care). And neither does MTNL/BPL! Why has Airtel resorted to such a bad tactic? :|

BTW Orange network isn't best in the world but it is decent enough. Though, I get a very weak signal at my place! :(

Shinu Mathew said...

Calling from my cell to my own customer care is costing me 6 rs. Isn't it bad?
I guess Hutch is way ahead in service to it's customer but it has limited itself to metros and let it's associates serve the other areas like Vasai, Etc.

dhruv said...

shit...that is so stupid. it's a dirty underhanded trick to extract the last penny from a user! :| I hope they start charging you ONLY AFTER YOU ARE CONNECTED TO THE CC EXEC?! Do they charge you for the time they keep you on hold? :O