Telecom companies have asked for more time to implement stricter rules aimed at preventing call drops, the regulator said. “They have not opposed it (new rules) but they have asked for more time. They want to put in some systems… We will examine their request,” said Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman RS Sharma. In the new rules issued on August 18, Trai set penalties of up toRs 10 lakh per circle in a quarter on operators failing to meet voice quality benchmarks. The quality of voice service will now be measured at the base station level instead of the circle level. The rules, effective October 1, are also aimed at ensuring coverage in under-served areas. They mandate telcos to pay Rs 1-5 lakh — depending on the extent of the violation — in a quarter. Violations in consecutive quarters will result in 1.5 times the penalty levied in the first quarter and twice that if they continue in the third quarter, subject to a cap of Rs 10 lakh in a three-month period. The new and stricter rules on call drops are meant to overcome a shortcoming in the earlier method of assessing a network’s performance in a service area over a month, which would mask individual cell sites that functioned poorly or not at all on some days. As a result, even though telcos met quality standards, some subscribers still complained of call drops, Trai said. Graded penalties, which will be based on new performance benchmarks at the base station level, will be levied from January 1, a quarter after the rules kick in. The three-month period to December end will be used for observations of call drop information that telcos share with the regulator, Trai said. However, carriers said the new guidelines would add to the complexity of rules. They said the regulator should not blame telcos alone as other factors, including the number of users on the network at a time, subscribers being indoors or outdoors, and issues with handsets, could be responsible for call drops.