India’s Tryst With DLT Protects Mobile Subscribers

Siddhartha Dasgupta

September 10, 2020

When one looks at the numbers, its staggering to say the least. India has roughly 1.2 billion mobile subscribers, out of whom only 230 million are registered in the DND(Do Not Disturb) registry.

For the uninitiated, the National Customer Preference Register (NCPR), formerly the National Do Not Call Registry (NDNC), is intended to give Indian consumers an opportunity to limit the telemarketing calls they receive.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is the Indian governmental agency tasked with defining various policies and regulations for wireless communication service providers in India.

As per TRAI regulation, every mobile service provider in India is required to set up a National Customer Preference Register (NCPR).

In practice, various service providers refer to it as the Do Not Disturb (DND) registry. Telemarketers, after registration from TRAI, receive permission to access the NCPR.

30 billion commercial messages are sent in India every day.  To date, there’s been over 1.2 million disconnections in India due to illegal marketing activity.

The problem of unsolicited commercial communications(UCC) is very real in India, as the proliferation of unwanted SMS increase.

These messages are mostly sent for marketing and the rise in fraud and spam has been tremendous across the board.

Until last year, the old regulatory system governing commercial SMS was ineffective and inefficient.

The process governing the ecosystem wasn’t tech dependent and the following are the sample of problems that rendered the old system highly inefficient:

  • Time taken to register and de-register
  • Despite disconnection, UCC increased from unregistered telemarketers
  • Management of contracts between two separate entities
  • Verification & Registration of content template
  • Consent recording in a verifiable fashion

The existing inefficiencies in the system allowed telemarketers to take advantage and try to con mobile subscribers.

Therefore, a solution was needed which not only protected consumers but also protected the interests of the Telcos and promoted healthy competition.

Enter DLT & Blockchain

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India(TRAI) wanted to explore a new technology to transform the backbone of commercial messages in India to eliminate fraud and spam.

Given the immutable nature of DLT, the Indian regulator mandated every telemarketer or enterprise to register into the DLT system via their telecom service provider. The primary reasons for TRAI to choose DLT are:

  • Smart: They are inherently smart, secure and integrate business rules, smart contracts, and digital signatures.
  • Unauthorized changes: By nature, blockchain systems cannot be changes by anybody, the system can match copies with participants and only through a consensus algorithm, they can be matched.
  • Data security and accuracy: Inherently, through cryptography, the data is secured and accurate through keys and signatures. Entries are reflected in all copies in seconds.

Specifically, in this context, the DLT is meant to record preferences, manage consumer content, handle complaints, provide intelligence, register entities, register, and verify contents.

Benefits for the Ecosystem

The new regulation which has come into effect at the beginning of 2020, has various benefits for all stakeholders viz. consumers, telemarketers, business entities and access providers.

Before we get into specific benefits, we must remember that that the new system is bound to fundamentally improve the delivery and regulation of commercial communications.

Since the primary objective was to reduce fraud and spam, the system allows consumers to define their communication preferences in a more granular manner to precisely depict their true interests.

They will have more control to manage consent and preferences and the system will enable faster resolution of UCC complaints.

There would be no chance for victimization because of false complaints and they would have access to all telecom resources, no matter what.

The biggest benefit for access providers would be efficiency and effectiveness as the technology will help them monitor and control UCCs more efficiently, thereby drastically bringing down the scope for financial disincentives.

Tremendous advantages of economy of scale along with reducing regulatory burden by delegating functions is a key factor for providers.

It also presents them an opportunity to make it easier to onboard telemarketers and simplify the process through automation.

Telemarketers who are at the other end of the spectrum would find it easy to do business and have reduced risk of flouting regulatory compliance.

The new systems means that the upfront cost to start a telemarketing service would considerably reduce and due to flexibility offered to consumers to receive such messages in their leisure time, has the potential to increase business volumes for them.

For enterprises, it would mean better targeting opportunities for marketing. It would also enable them to keep the client data safely and securely, while sharing it with other stakeholders to maintain regulator compliance.

It greatly reduces the risk of non-compliance and protects their brand identity with verifiable authentication.

Future of DLT & Blockchain in India

While there have small Blockchain projects in financial services, and there are some Blockchain startups in India doing some cutting-edge work in niche areas, the work has been limited to the financial services space and enterprise applications.

With the advent of DLT in commercial communications, it paves the way for the implementation of DLT/Blockchain in other sectors which positively impacts consumers and businesses at scale.

Given the scale of the economy and the population, India is the perfect testing ground for large scale blockchain application for mainstream sectors, beyond financial services.

Source: ITU-TRAI & Wikipedia

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About the author
Siddhartha Dasgupta

Contributing Author

Sid has been a content solutions evangelist and a digital marketer for 10+ years. Having written for brands such as IBM, Infosys and other technology corporations and startups, he is always at the cutting edge of researching & writing about emerging technologies.

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