Bharti Airtel's network was the most congested in the country during the October-December 2008 period, while Tata Teleservices has the least number of points where the congestion levels are beyond permissible levels, according to an analysis by the sector regulator the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

To ensure seamless inter-connection, the regulator monitors the level of congestion at the points of interconnection (PoIs) between various service providers on a monthly basis.

PoIs are places where mobile traffic is exchanged between the networks of different operators. Congestion level at these points signifies the ease with which a customer of one network is able to communicate with a customer of another network. The parameter also reflects as to how effective is the interconnection between two networks. Network congestion is the primary factor that results in call drops, poor reception and voice quality.

The benchmark notified by Trai in the Quality of Service regulation of July 2005 for this parameter is less than 0.5 percent. This means out of 200 calls between two operators only one call should face congestion problem. The result of the monitoring revealed that in a number of areas, the degree of congestion between the operators is alarming.

While Airtel's network was congested beyond the specified benchmark in 14 places, Vodafone's network was clogged in 12 places in December. Reliance Communications and Idea had 11 PoIs each. Tata Teleservices has the least number of points where the congestion levels are beyond permissible levels with a total of two places.

Circle wise analysis of the congestion status showed that Bihar was the worst affected circle with 22 congested PoIs, followed by the Northeast, Rajasthan, UP-East and UP-West with five congested PoIs each.

The Trai report revealed that out of 66 congested PoIs in December, 37 PoIs had congestion over 5% compared with 67 PoIs in September, while the number of PoIs with congestion levels over 40% were two compared with 11 such PoIs in September. During the period, the cellular mobile telephone subscriber base has increased from 315.31 million in September to 346.89 million in December.

Meanwhile, telecom operators have shown significant improvement in reducing network congestion. The number of PoIs where congestion levels are higher than the specified benchmark decreased from 129 in September to 66 in December. Airtel had 42 such points of congestion and Vodafone had 23 in October.

The extent of congestion between networks of private operators and state-owned telecom companies, including BSNL and MTNL, has also decreased to 35 PoIs from 68 PoIs in September. The PoI congestion among private operators has also decreased from 61 in September to 31 in December.

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