Tech 31 May 2018

Erik Gibbs

India telecom authority turns to blockchain to curb unwanted calls

There’s a bit of good news for consumers in India, but potentially bad news for spammers (which makes the good news even better). The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has found another use for the blockchain—helping to stop unwanted telemarketing phone calls and text messages. The future of the blockchain gets brighter every day.

In a report by the Economic Times, TRAI published guidelines, the ‘Telecom Commercial Customer Preference Regulation,’ that will combat unsolicited calls and messages. Cell phone spam has become a disease that has infected the entire 1.19-billion user subscriber base of the Indian telecom company. The blockchain could prove to be the cure that regulators were looking for.

With the help of the blockchain, TRAI will cryptographically secure the contact details of hundreds of millions of customers. The details will only be provided to registered telemarketers and only under very specific conditions. According to TRAI Chairman R. S. Sharma, “Blockchain will ensure two things—non-repudiable [record keeping] and confidentiality. Only those authorized to access details will be able to access subscriber details and only when they need to deliver service…TRAI will become the first organization to implement this kind of regulation.”

TRAI has attempted to implement measures previously to control unsolicited telemarketing calls, but hasn’t had much success. This time, it will use the blockchain and work with telecom operators to address the issue, incorporating regulatory oversight, as well.

Under the new program, subscribers will have to give their consent prior to receiving any type of communication. The subscribers will be able to review and revoke their consent at any time, instantaneously. Under the current system, it can take over a week for a subscriber to have his or her choice registered.

All communications between the telecom companies and their subscribers regarding consent will be captured and recorded on the blockchain ledger. For those consumers who authorize contact by the provider, TRAI has suggested using the blockchain to log the communication in an effort to ensure the system is not abused.

Initially, the proposed policies will be launched in a sandbox, giving consumers and providers the ability to test the system. The sandbox will allow subscribers to either completely block spam or to allow it. Provided the tests go well, the project will be rolled out across the country at a later date.

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