Do You Know Why Call Drops Increased After Chinese Smartphones Flooded Indian Market?


If you are a victim of call drops and are at the receiving end for quite some time now, there are high probabilities that its because of your faulty smartphone, and not because of the operators’ network.

For India the call drop menace is a recent phenomena – a year or two to be precise, and the issue is not dying down despite operators are putting enough money in their network upgradation. Take for example, Bharti Airtel. The company invested Rs 60,000 crore under project leap to upgrade its network, put up more than 1.5 lakh sites in just 2 years, but there is no significant improvement in user experience as far as call drops are concerned.

The network could be a factor but not the factor for the poor call experience that we in India seeing for past one year or so. So, where is the issue?

The other major factor, besides networks etc, is the smartphone that we use to make calls.

Food For Thought

But have you ever noticed that the call drops on the telecom networks increased with the increase of Chinese smartphones in the Indian market? Did you find any link?

Well, there is a link.

The call drops incidents coincided with the entry of Chinese smartphones in the Indian market and kept on increasing as more and more such phones came here. And the fault lies in the design of these smartphones.

One would be surprised to know that more than 23% of 4G smartphones in use in India are faulty and are not suitable for the telecom networks. These smartphones are poorly designed, have deployed sub-standard components -starting from antenna design to Rx and Tx (receiver and transmitter) components to battery solutions – and all combined brought down the efficiency of the network.

These faulty smartphones, because of the sub-optimal RF design and other issues, bring down the network capacity drastically and it affects the entire network.

The call drops also increased as the market share of these Chinese smartphones increased in India. At present these phone makers command more than 50% of Indian smartphone market and they launch a new model almost everyday.

In 2016, around 110 million smartphones were shipped to India and of that 73% are 4G smartphones as per CMR data.

Where Did We Get This Data?

Recently an Indian operator, one of the biggest, partnered with one global test and measurement firm to check its network to find if there are any faults that is degrading the network capacity. While testing the company checked 8000 unique smartphone models and checked its impact in New Delhi.

The various benchmark test both the parties included RSCP (received signal code power), ratio of received chip energy to interference (Eclo), reference signal received quality (RSRQ), voice switched drop rate, signal to interference ratio (SINR), 4G-3G IRAT handover and 4G-3G IRAT handover fail rate among others.

To its surprise, it found that, sub-standard smartphones are a big cause of concern. 23% of all 4G smartphones and 18% of the 3G phones failed in the test and do not even come closer to the benchmark, leave alone surpassing that. Overall, 17% all smartphones failed the test. These smartphones generated 21% and 18% of total voice and data volumes respectively.

Whats more? The smartphones that failed the test created 2.2 times more call drop incidents than the top 10 best phones in the market.

“It shouldn’t surprise you,” says the CTO of a big handset company who wished to remain anonymous for this story. “There are no standard tests for RF design by the operators here. So you bring any device and latch on to the network and start using.”

He also suggested that most of these phones come from Chinese makers.

“And, that’s precisely the reason why these players could not enter the developed markets like the US, but dump in India and African markets” said the CEO of a Bangalore based T&M company. “India is an open market and operators do not test your handset before allowing that to your network unlike the US. That’s why the US uses limited number of devices that conform to their network standards.”

Our Take : While the country suffered because of the call drops, and the regulator and operators were at tenterhooks throughout the process – blaming each other for the cause, a few Chinese smartphone makers were slyly smiling selling their sub-standard phones here.

The regulator should take a note of this and the operators should set a benchmark for smartphones to be allowed to their network. All the smartphones should go through a proper test before they are allowed.

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