Government of India came up with an innovative method to put a check to criminals and terrorists.
Yes, In order to root out those who have used fraudulent means to get connections, Supreme Court ordered telecom operators to re-verify their existing subscribers via Aadhaar cards which became the world’s largest online digital identity platform a year ago.
SC passed the order on February 6, providing a deadline of exactly one year (February 6, 2018) for compliance.
Members of the Cellular Operators Association of India estimate the process could cost at least Rs 1,000 crore. In order to tighten security and clamp down on use by criminals and terrorists, government asked phone companies to conduct a know-your-customer (KYC) vetting process by calling for ID and address proofs a few years ago.
"All licensees shall intimate their existing subscribers through advertisement in print/electronic media as well as SMS about the orders of the Supreme Court for re-verification activity and shall upload the complete details of this activity on their website," said a notice issued by department of telecommunications on Thursday.
It means that only those with Aadhaar cards can have subscriptions.
"It is indeed a big challenge for the industry as this will entail capital expenditure," said Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents the top telcos including Bharti AirtelBSE 0.59 %, Vodafone India, Idea CellularBSE -0.82 % and Reliance Jio Infocomm.
The department has drawn up an extensive methodology after its meeting with industry and representatives from the Prime Minister's Office on February 13, the notice said.
For Aadhaar based re-verification, the telecom operator will have to send an SMS to a subscriber with a verification code after establishing that the SIM card is physically available with the person.
"Only after this activity the licensee shall proceed for e-KYC process. The licensee shall then seek confirmation from the subscriber about the re-verification of his/her mobile number after 24 hours through SMS," the notice said.
This Is What The Notification Says
“After the completion of the eKYC process, before updating or overwriting the old subscriber detail in database with the data received through eKYC process, the licensee will seek confirmation from the subscriber about the re-verification of his/her mobile number after 24 hours through SMS,” the notification said.
The operator can re-verify more than one mobile connection in one service area through a single eKYC but not bulk connections. For issuing additional mobile connections to re-verified subscriber, the operator would have to follow a separate eKYC process.
Verification of a subscriber would not be required in case of conversions – that is pre-paid to postpaid connections or vice versa, it clarified.
Experts Reaction To This Notification
Prashant Singhal, global telecom lead at consultancy firm EY, noted that the additional cost for telcos comes at a time when the industry is struggling financially due to the ongoing price war triggered by Jio's entry.
While agreeing that the exercise is a mammoth talk, Hemant Joshi, partner at Deloitte in India, said "if executed well, may not take a long time".
"While the task is huge, the digital platform of Aadhaar connected with the mobile number should facilitate this transition. The most convenient way to do this is using one-time password. There are other ways to do it as well; for instance, using location-based coordinates," he said.
Jio typically does it through a fingerprint reader for biometric verification. Recently, government said that Aadhaar cards will be made mandatory for filing tax returns and applying for driving licenses.
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