Mumbai, India (PressExposure) July 04, 2011 -- Regulator asks service providers to mention in ads the cities in which the third-generation service is available.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has directed all mobile phone service providers to mention in advertisements the cities and states in which third-generation (3G) service is available.
Acting on complaints of irate consumers who have not got the 3G service despite claims of roll-out and availability of such services, the regulator sent a note on Thursday to all such companies including Vodafone Essar Ltd, BhartiAirtel Ltd and Idea Cellular Ltd.
"The notification comes into effect immediately," Trai chairman J.S. Sarma said on Saturday.
Mobile services operators were one of the biggest advertisers during the World Cup and Indian Premier League cricket tournaments on national television.
"The telecom companies spent, on an average, $100 million on advertising for 3G availability and roll-out during the launch between January and May," said PrashantSinghal, telecom industry leader, Ernst and Young.
The TV ads, however, did not specify the coverage and availability of services. "The coverage of 3G services is limited to just 50-60% of the top 150 cities in terms of people density and incomes," Singhal said.
There are at least 500 million active mobile phone users in India, of which five-six million users have subscribed for 3G services, according to Singhal. On an average, a 3G customer pays $12-15 (around Rs.540-675) more per month for the usage of 3G, said Singhal.
However, as the service is just three months old, there are teething problems. "Close to 15-20% of 3G consumers have complained of the service as they are unhappy with the speed, have issues with coverage and other such issues," said Singhal.
One such irate consumer, DhavalValia, who posted comments of Vodafone's patchy 3G service and bad customer service on his Facebook wall, got a legal notice from the company for making "false allegations" and "defamatory" statements. The company later withdrew the notice.
"The Trai notification is a step in the right direction and it will help protect the interests of millions of mobile consumers across the country who have subscribed for 3G services, or plan to subscribe to 3G services," said Valia, adding that the roll-out of 3G services has not been smooth for most service providers and they have failed to communicate that to consumers.