Centre may drop Covid pre-call announcements from phones after 2 years of pandemic

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The coronavirus awareness pre-call audio announcements set by telecom operators at the start of the pandemic may soon become history.

When you make a call, instead of the phone ringing on the other end, you hear someone coughing. Once. And then again. And then a message started playing about coronavirus infections that are fast spreading, causing Covid-19 disease across the globe.

The message aims to tell people, almost all of us who use Jio, Vodafone, Airtel or SIM card from any other telecom company – BSNL and MTNL included – that Covid-19 is spreading and that it is important to take precautionary measures like washing hands with a soap to check its spread.

After almost two years of raising awareness about Covid-19, the Centre is now actively considering the removal of the coronavirus pre-call messages after receiving representations that audio clips have served their intended purpose and are delaying critical calls during emergencies, according to a PTI report.

The report said the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has written to the Union Health Ministry requesting it to drop these pre-call announcements and caller tunes.

It cited representations received from Cellular Operators Association of India (COA) as well as mobile subscribers.

“The health ministry is now considering removal of these audio clips in view of the improved pandemic situation in the country even as other measures for spreading public awareness about the safeguards against the viral disease will continue,” an official source told PTI.

The instructions for implementation of coronavirus pre-call announcements and caller tunes to Telecom Service Providers were issued by DoT following directions received from the Union Health Ministry.

The telecom service providers (TSPs) have been playing the pre-call announcements and caller tunes related to coronavirus to spread awareness amongst citizens and tell them about the precautions and vaccination to be taken during the pandemic.

“After the passage of around 21 months, these announcements have served the intended purpose of awareness creation amongst the citizens and serve no value now. 

“The message being played across networks invariably results in holding up and delaying critical calls from going through during emergencies and ends in consumption of precious bandwidth resources. This overloads the TSPs network and creates a significant delay in call connection,” the DoT said in a letter written recently to the Health ministry citing the representations.

It also impacts customer experience and many have approached the TSPs to deactivate these as it is a hindrance when the customers need to make urgent calls, the letter said, adding many complaints through RTI have requested to deactivate the RBTs (ring back tone) as the citizens are not able to connect to the people in case of emergencies.

With agency inputs

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