TRAI’s Blockchain Solution To Combat Pesky Calls
The TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s) has discovered itself in legal trouble with accusations of being “detrimental to free, fair commerce and competition, regulatory ethics and also the arm’s length principle.” A petition has been filed in the Delhi high court by a telemarketer, Venets Media, lamenting that the implementation associate for the project, Tanla Solutions, is itself a telemarketer, therefore boosting conflict of interest.
Tanla Solution is executing associate of the distributed ledger technology (DLT) for Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. The petition claims that the “regulator has not addressed the concerns of thousands of aggregators, telemarketers, value-added service providers, and resellers, in sharing, uploading and getting pre-approved the sensitive and commercially invaluable client data to a platform controlled by a dominant private operator, with similar business interests.”
Telemarketers worry that Tanla will be capable of controlling promotional, transactional, and commercial service SMSes, which may provide it an ‘unfair competitive advantage’ over smaller firms. It is striking that as per TRAI data, there are 22,000 registered telemarketers in the country. It is claimed that about 200 telemarketers will enter the legal petition post-lockdown.
The high court has directed TRAI to reply by June 15. Hyderabad-based Tanla reportedly stated that it is a technology company and not a telemarketer. “Tanla has developed a platform in compliance with TCCCPR 2018 and offered this platform to mobile operators in India, which is managed by the mobile operators,” it said.
Nevertheless, it is alleged that Tanla acquired Karix Mobile, a retail telemarketing company that offers A2P marketing solutions, including bulk SMS in 2018. “Karix is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tanla, and together they control 40% volume of the entire SMS industry. This is what has put the entire industry against Tanla,” the report added.
In 2018, TRAI had instructed telecom operators to adopt blockchain technology to record telemarketers and to enhance the complaint redressal system for unsolicited calls. It has urged operators to assure that only registered telemarketers have access to customers’ phone number databases. TRAI’s move comes in the wake of rising spam calls to mobile phone users, notwithstanding restrictions on telemarketers.
In May 2018, the regulator had issued draft norms that proposed utilizing the technology to assure that telemarketing messages are sent only to subscribers. The first phase of DLT went live on June 1, which mandated registration of principal entities and header on all four telco’s portals. Although TRAI has not notified the next phase activation deadline, the entire onboarding process is anticipated to be accomplished by November.