The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dial-in rings disaster for phone lines
- Flurry of calls to FM radio stations and TV talk shows clogs CalTel networks

The call count: 96,000 in 24 hours; just 105 going through.

The call consequence: dial D for disaster.

The success of dial-in programmes on the FM radio channels has rung in a riot in the city’s telephone network. A recent internal study by Calcutta Telephones has pegged the number of calls made to FM programmes in a single day at 96,000 calls. Only 105 calls were ‘completed’.

“Statistics of this nature tell on the quality of service,” admits S.P. Chakravarty, chief general manager, CalTel. “Call drop rates have increased and call completion rates have gone down drastically. Networks are severely affected and the congestion is spreading throughout the city.”

There is little doubt now that the massive number of calls being made to FM radio stations — and to the phone-in programmes on local TV channels — have clogged networks, resulting in a drastic drop in the call completion rate (ratio of successful completed calls to the total number of attempted calls) for CalTel.

The problem arises not only on account of the number of people who call, but also because callers who can’t get through to their favourite programmes just keep on redialling.

CalTel has entered into dialogue with FM and television channels to sort out the matter. On the talks table are a number of options, including restriction of calls to a particular number or creation of a pool of messages. A store-and-forward messaging service, similar to voicemail, would reduce the load on the network and also enable messages to be aired or beamed later.

“Besides radio and TV programmes, a similar problem is created when the Madhyamik or Higher Secondary results are declared,” explains Chakravarty. “It’s like a traffic jam, where congestion at one point spreads to other points, blocking the entire route.” For Board results, CalTel allots a specific number of channels that route inquiries and allow normal flow of regular calls.

The problem, warn CalTel officials, will only intensify, with just four FM stations, of the 10 licensed ones, operating in town and phone-ins gaining in popularity on Bengali television channels, too. To ease the pressure on the lines, call-handling capacity of exchanges must be increased and use of tech tools, like the IVRS (interactive voice response system), boosted.

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