(Last Updated On: June 22, 2016)

Leading telecom operators like Idea, Vodafone, and others are using RLT (Radio Link Timeout) incorrectly, according to a statement issued by TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India).


These telecom operators are employing RLT for masking call drops due to network issues (like moving into an area with poor connectivity) and bill the user for the whole time he was in a call including the time he was not able to listen to the person from the other end.

So when a person is not able to hear the speaker from the other end then he disconnects the calls himself. This doesn’t get counted as a dropped call since the timer on the person’s phone was still running till the time he decided to hung up on the call.

“Most of the operators have focused on network improvement. However, usage of RLT (i.e. time-out period for releasing the call) by Aircel, Vodafone and Idea is incorrect and needs to be addressed immediately,” said TRAI in its Mumbai network drive test report.

COAI Said They Are Not Doing Anything Wrong

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said that this so called ‘Call drop masking technology’ is a network parameter called Radio Link Timeout which is a part of GSM network standards and is hence used by many telecom operators across the globe.

It also mentioned that RLT is a just one of the parameters of a GSM network which decided the time duration for which the call must remain connected when the signal quality drops below a certain threshold.

TRAI found that most of the telecom operators are using the RLT at the level of 40 units in Mumbai, but some are using it even beyond this. Vodafone was found to have a higher RLT than its peers in 97% of cell sites, while Idea and Aircel exceeded the RLT than their peers in 80% and 64% cell sites. Tata Teleservices was also found to be using higher RLT value in 23% of its cell sites.

“Such use will delay a dropped call by not providing any audio to the consumer and forcing him to disconnect, while charging him for time the call was inaudible. Thus, the reduction in CDR (call data record) is not an accurate reflection of improved customer experience,” TRAI mentioned.

TRAI also mentioned that most of the telecom operators are still not meeting the call drop rate benchmark (less than or equal to 2%) except Airtel 2G & 3G, and Vodafone 2G.

MTNL 2G & 3G and Tata CDMA have performed very poor. Aircel 2G, Reliance 2G, Tata 2G and Vodafone 3G will need to focus on their Call Drop Rate reduction while Idea 2G, all CDMA operators and specially MTNL 2G & 3G need to improve across all parameters,” said TRAI while sharing the results of network test drive done over a 580 km stretch between May 10-13 in Mumbai.

Telecom operators have played a trump card by exploiting the RLT network parameter. With this move they can not only avoid paying any compensation to the subscriber for any call drop, but would also be able to bill him for the extra seconds of radio silence.

What’s your take on this? Do you think the telcos are justified in using the RLT to such extent?