Golden Sibanda : Senior Business Reporter
PROVIDERS of telecommunication services are now compelled to meet a prescribed minimum quality of service, in terms of newly promulgated regulations, and may have to compensate customers for sub-standard service.The new regulations were introduced by the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services in consultation with Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe. The regulations, known as Postal and Telecommunications (Quality Services) are provided through Statutory Instrument 42 of 2016 and set service and customer care standards for telecoms and postal service industries.
According to the gazetted rules, which set minimum standards for mobile phone networks, fixed telecom operators, data and internet service providers, mobile networks must ensure minimum call completion rate of 80 percent.
The rules, which are now law, may penalise any service providers with service quality levels below acceptable standards, provided the poor quality is not caused by factors beyond the operator’s control.
The rules will deal with numerous and frequent customer grievances over poor service delivery, which manifest in cross lines, dropped calls, slow internet connectivity, high service cost and unavailability of network. As such, mobile network service providers are now compelled to ensure 99,99 percent service availability, service activation period of under 5 seconds, down time of below 1 hour, interconnection gateway route down and repair time of less than an hour.
The rules will require service providers to ensure network connectivity success rate of equal or above 95 percent, call set up success rate to a valid number properly dialled, at any given time, to be above 95 percent. Call completion rate, the percentage of calls that are successfully setup, maintained and terminated normally by the calling or called party should be equal or exceed 80 percent while the rate of voice calls dropped calls should be restricted within the 2 percent band.
A dropped call is one that is prematurely terminated before being released normally by either the caller or the called party before the exchange of released message. Calls failed due to unavailability of network traffic channels due to many call attempts, traffic channel congestion or call congestion should not exceed 2 percent while call hand over success rate rank over 90 percent.
The rules state that the call set up time, period starting when the address information required to set up a call is received by the network and finishing when the busy tone, ringing tone or answer signal is received by the calling party, should be less than 10 seconds.
A 99,98 percent success rate should be achieved for short message service (SMS) sent and received in 2 minutes while the rate of failure is allowed at 0,02 percent. End to end delivery period, the time from sending an SMS to the time the SMS is received would have to be contained within 120 seconds while a delivery success rate of 99 percent should be attained for all multimedia messages.
The new regulations for the telecoms and postal industries will require operators to ensure data service availability, the ratio of successful logging and maintained network connectivity to total attempts, to stay above 98 percent.
Service activation, the duration it should take from the instant a valid service order is received by a licensee to the time a working service is made available to the user would have to be completed in seven days while all orders should also be processed within a week. Eighty percent of faults to fixed telecommunication services will have to be cleared within a period of 24 hours after reporting, 90 percent of them in 48 hours of reporting and all faults would have to be addressed in 72 hours.