TRAI: operators to invest in blockchain to cut unwanted calls and SMS

Indian telecom regulator TRAI has issued new draft guidelines prompting mobile operators to invest in blockchain technology in order to control unwanted phone calls and SMS messages from marketing companies.
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The new regulation will put more pressure on telecom operators such as Airtel, BSNL, Idea Cellular, Vodafone and Reliance Jio, among others, because they will be forced to make some investment in blockchain technology as well.

The TRAI draft regulation said mobile operators need to adopt blockchain or Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) with permissioned and private DLT networks for implementation of system, functions and processes.

Indian telecom operators will be liable to pay up to Rs 5,000 per day in case of non-compliance to the new guidelines.

Rs 20,000 per day will be the penalty for the additional delay of more than thirty days. The total amount payable as financial disincentives will not exceed INR 1 million, TRAI said in its draft regulation.

TRAI said that the use of blockchain technology is expected to ensure that only authorized telemarketing agencies can send messages to mobile phone users who have subscribed to marketing calls and message.

TRAI’s latest initiative follows the failure of its existing regulation and the setting up of “Do Not Disturb (DND) registry under regulations made in 2010. TRAI said 23 crore mobile subscribers have registered on the DND Registry in the last 7-8 ears.

But TRAI could not control the problem because several unscrupulous elements started obtaining customers’ consent, often surreptitiously, or resorted to use of unregistered telemarketers that call or message from a ten-digit number.

“Blockchain will ensure two things — non- repudiative and confidentiality. Only those authorised to access details will be able to access subscriber details and only when they need to deliver service. TRAI will become first organisation to implement this kind of regulation,” TRAI Chairman RS Sharma told reporters.

TRAI has floated the Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations 2018 draft for public comments till June 11.

The new technology based norms will record all communication between subscribers and entities, capturing customer consent for information and authorised telemarketing agencies.

TRAI Secretary SK Gupta said: “It is learnt that many telemarketing firms get registered with telecom companies to obtain subscriber details. The new system will give access to only authorised agencies at the time they need to deliver service and details of only those subscribers who have agreed to receive the message.

“The digital record will show entire communication between entries involved.”

The draft proposes to check misuse of repeated unsolicited calls being made even to those subscribers who have given consent.

“A subscriber may have given consent for a service but that consent is liable to be misused. Under the proposed regulation, the mobile subscriber will be able to revoke consent given to entities whenever he or she desires through Trai app and other mechanism that will be provided under the regulation,” Gupta said.