Customers of Idea Cellular turned out to be the happiest among those of all the big private telecom operators in India, while those of Reliance Communications were the most likely to make complaints to the regulator or the government.
Among all private operators small and big, MTS’ subscribers made the highest number of complaints per capita in 2015, indicating that the data-focused operator was facing constraints regarding bandwidth and other similar issues.
For every 1 lakh (100,000) customers that the operator had as of December 2015, 18.70 of them sent a complaint to the Department of Telecom or the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. This was, by far, the highest instance of complaining customers among all private operators during the year.
The second highest was Reliance Communications, which saw a complaint rate of 7.83 per lakh in 2015.
After these two came two of India’s largest telcos — Vodafone and Bharti Airtel — with scores of around 4.4 complaints per lakh. The third biggest operator and one of the fastest-growing, Idea Cellular, saw 2.79 complaints per lakh users — indicating an overall higher satisfaction levels among its customers.
The most satisfied, going by these numbers, were the subscribers of Norway-based Telenor, with only 0.94 complaints for every 100,000 customers that the firm had as of the end of 2015.
These numbers, while useful as indicators, cannot be taken as an absolute measure due to geographical considerations. For example, an operator that has a large number of subscribers in the National Capital region, such as Bharti Airtel, is more likely to see a large number of complaints against it as DoT and TRAI offices are located in Delhi.
On the other hand, firms like Telenor and Videocon, which have negligible or no presence in the capital are likely to see a lower ‘complaint rate’ as their customers have to take greater pains to figure out who to and how to make such complaints.
Idea Cellular too has a larger proportion of its subscribers in non-metro circles and this too may be part of the reason why there were fewer complaints made against the operator compared to its rivals.
Similarly, complaints to the government against state-owned companies — BSNL and MTNL — will always be higher as it is assumed that there is a higher likelihood of a resolution in case of a complaint in such cases compared to cases where the ‘defendant’ is a private company.
2015 vs 2014
However, one way to remove such biases from the numbers and see the direction in which these telecom operators are moving is to compare the numbers of 2015 with those of the previous year.
Surprisingly, here too the top performer is Telenor, which saw a 35% fall in complaints made against it with the DoT and TRAI.
MTNL, the state-owned telecom operator, too seemed to be getting in better shape as it saw a 21% decline in the number of complaints. However, MTNL has a complaint rate of 300 per lakh customers even after the fall.
Similarly, Tata DoCoMo also saw the number fall by 20% in 2015 compared to 2014.
On the other side of the spectrum was Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd or BSNL, which saw a 62% increase in 2015 to nearly 31,000 complaints in all. The state-owned company accounted for nearly 38% of all complaints made against telecom companies during the year.
Among private players, it was again MTS which led with a 48% jump in the number of complaints in 2015, followed by India’s largest telecom company Bharti Airtel. The others posted single-digit increases (see chart.)