It all started in May-June this year when telecom regulator TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) moved a proposal to utilize blockchain technology for curbing irritating telemarketing spam call.

Thereafter, in last month TRAI notified the new guidelines for curbing spam calls and messages including the use of blockchain technology to ensure that all necessary regulatory pre-checks are carried out to control the flow of commercial communication

Under TRAI's new stringent unsolicited commercial communication rules, an individual can revoke permission that they have granted to any commercial entity for a service. In one of its guidelines, TRAI also permit mobile subscribers to set preference about days and time bands on which they would like to receive commercial communications as well as indicate preferred modes of communication -- call or SMS.

Now, within few days after the guidelines were issued, the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) -- as expected -- crying foul over cost of implementation, time-frame etcetera, etcetera.

According to COAI Director Rajan S Mathews, the new blockchain-based system has not been implemented elsewhere in the world, so it is difficult to quantify the exact investment or the time involved. He then roughly estimated that it will be in excess of Rs 200-400 crore investments for tailoring of such system with onvovement of blockchain technology.

Related Reading - COAI Demands Level Playing Field and Rules for 'Ease of Doing Business'

COAI, the industry body which represents Indian Mobile Service Providers (MSPs) including the "Big-4" (Pre-Jio) - Bharti Airtel Ltd, Idea Cellular Ltd and Vodafone India Ltd. Idea, and Vodafone, who together have had spent around Rs 1,000 crore in advertising, is unaware of the fact that a Mobile Service Provider can actually save whopping cost -- if not billions -- by implementing blockchain technology.

Benefits of Blockchain Implementation

Below are few long-term benefits of Blockchain usage in telecom/ mobile service provider industry, which may or may NOT fall in the purview of recent guidelines mandated by TRAI. But then again, its shouldn't be the case that an industry or sector should implement the emerging technologies only when mandated by government or regulatory body.

The impact of blockchain tech for telecom industry ultimately depends on how actively the adoption of use cases is driven by Mobile service providers. Although, there may be a need to facilitate blockchain benefits and to overcome the challenges that MSPs.

  • A blockchain 'enabled' trust improves coordination between various partners, due to a shared view of transactions and liabilities. This in turn permits the elimination of third parties, resulting in cost savings.

  • Implementation of smart contracts in roaming and other cases allows for near-instantaneous charging, thus leading to improved revenue assurance and fraud reduction.

  • Potential to facilitate new business models for revenue generation for Communication Service Provider who are looking for new avenues to increase both top and bottom lines.

Benefits To IoT Ecosystem -

A blockchain can act as the ledger that enables, for example, an M2M economy to prosper based on the common platform available, in which M2M transactions can be recorded. It can thus act as the enabler for an IoT

In conclusion, the benefits of adopting a blockchain in the core and auxiliary operations of a Communications Service Provider are plenty, as highlighted above. MSPs should take a long term view of blockchains and their potential to add value to the enterprise in both their current and new business models.

Losses Due To Spam Calls in India

According to Truecaller Insights 2017 report, a Truecaller user in India, on an average, receives 22.6 spam calls per month, which is the highest compared to 20 other countries plagued by spam calls. The report also highlighted that spam calls in India mostly originate from operators providing telecom services followed by companies providing financial services

The report further stated that Indian mobile users can save approximately 63 million hours a year by skipping spam calls, in turn saving India $414 million every year, which is Rs. 2,836 crore -- a far bigger amount then Rs.400 crore estimated by COAI Director Rajan S Mathews.

Conclusive Advice

Under recent TRAI guidlines, the regulator has raised the penalty cap on telecom operators by 10 folds to Rs 50 lakh in a month from Rs 5 lakh in previous regulations for violations of the norms, which is one of the main reasons the Indian mobile industry is crying foul. However, despite COAI defending the MSPs, the evidently visible truth is that India is indeed the world’s most spam-call plagued country so much so that just one (unnamed) telecom operator allowed jaw-dropping 31 Million telemarketing calls in 2017, according to the Truecaller report.

The spam hit country with largest mobile consumer base in the world can only be managed and consolidated to an ethical system of telecommunication when emerging technologies are being infused periodically and more sooner. The last regulation on spam calls and messages was mandated in 2010, so in this whole 8 years no mobile service provider adopted new technologies that could benefit the consumers; except and of course putting only mobile wallets and AI chatbots, in the name of new tech implementation or say evolution.

As with any new technology that holds the promise of significant disruption, there may be challenges to adoption of the blockchain tech. However, MSPs and industry body would do well to work together to enable the full realization of the blockchain benefits, just as many of the global financial institutions are currently doing (e.g. in the R3 Consortium). Working in a solo will limit the potential of blockchain.

References - Hindustan Times | Deloitte Report

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