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The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents major telecom operators such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea, has expressed concern about the rising number of cases of telecom equipment theft and has urged government intervention.

In a letter to telecom secretary, Neeraj Mittal, the COAI outlined the losses and expenses incurred by telcos in replacing stolen equipment at affected sites, which ultimately impacted customer service.

The association urged the Department of Telecom (DoT) to address the issue immediately by prioritizing complaints about equipment theft and enforcing strict penalties. The COAI emphasized the importance of the DoT and state authorities working together to effectively address this growing problem. The COAI also encouraged the DoT to take immediate action to block several foreign websites, including eBay, Alibaba, Telefly, Seeker816, and Dorfa Trade, which are suspected to be selling stolen active equipment from member telco networks.

"This is to bring to your kind attention a very serious issue being faced by our member TSPs (telecom service providers) across multiple circles. The incidents of theft of active equipment are at an all-time high... From October 2023 onwards, such incidents have increased multi-fold," COAI Director General, S.P. Kochhar, stated in the letter.

Kochhar also emphasized the importance of coordinating efforts to combat theft, especially in high-risk areas such as Delhi NCR, Rajasthan, Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Punjab, and Haryana.

The Result of Stolen Infrastructure

According to the COAI, customers bear the brunt of these thefts, which result in a decline in service quality or even complete service disruption. The association urged prompt action to protect telecom infrastructure and ensure uninterrupted services for consumers.

When essential infrastructure is stolen, it often leads to a decline in the quality of services provided by the telecommunication companies. This can manifest in various ways, including dropped calls, poor signal strength, slower internet speeds, and overall dissatisfaction among customers with the reliability of their telecom services.

In severe cases, thefts can result in complete service disruptions for consumers. Without the necessary infrastructure in place, telecom companies may struggle to maintain connectivity, leading to widespread outages in affected areas. Such disruptions can have significant implications for individuals, businesses, and even public services that rely on telecommunications for their day-to-day operations. The COAI's call for prompt action underscores the urgency of addressing this issue to safeguard both telecom infrastructure and consumer interests.

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