DND App: Little meeting of minds between Apple, Trai

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New Delhi | Published: July 31, 2018 5:24:52 AM

The stand-off between Trai and Apple over allowing the "DND" app on the company’s App Store and iPhone devices may take a while to get resolved because there’s still no meeting ground between the two with both parties adamant on their stand.

DND app has been there for some months now it is still to gain popularity with users

The stand-off between Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) and Apple over allowing the “Do Not Disturb” (DND) app on the company’s App Store and iPhone devices may take a while to get resolved because there’s still no meeting ground between the two with both parties adamant on their stand. Sources said that Apple is not opposed to an app which basically enables users to report unwanted calls and messages but it wants to do it in its own way and simply not give access to Trai’s DND app. Meanwhile, Trai at this point is not willing to back off from its stand.

For instance, industry sources said that Apple’s iOS 12 software update is expected to come with an extension that allows subscribers to report unwanted calls and text messages. However, this data will not go to Trai and the user’s phone book would not get synced with Trai’s app.

The regulator is not willing to accept this as a solution at this stage. Still, a legal battle where Apple may challenge Trai’s regulation on the app is ruled out for the moment.

The two sides are understood to begin talks in the next few weeks over the way forward.

Sources in the know of the development said both the sides will have to dilute their stance on the matter if an amicable solution is to be found.

As is known, to check unsolicited commercial calls and text messages, Trai has developed a DND app that is available on the Android app store but not on Apple’s iOS operating system. The DND app basically allows mobile subscribers to report unsolicited commercial calls and messages to Trai, which it may then analyse and take action against the offenders. In short, the app gets synced with the address book of a subscriber’s phone. However, Apple has maintained that its strict privacy standards does not allow any app to be synced with subscriber data.

After months being at loggerheads with Apple over the matter, Trai last week passed a regulation that has given six months’ time to the company to allow access to the app or Apple devices would be disconnected from telecom networks. “The Authority has decided that access provider should ensure, within six months’ time, that all smart phone devices registered on its network support the permissions required for the functioning of such apps. If such devices do not permit functioning of such apps then access providers shall, on the order or direction of the Authority, derecognise such devices from their telecom networks. However, before issuing order or direction of derecognition of devices, the concerned parties may be given a reasonable opportunity,” Trai said in its regulation notified last week.

Apple’s and a section of the industry’s view is that Trai does not have the power to cancel licences and derecognise devices. This power vests with the licensor, which is the department of telecommunications, and Trai can only submit recommendations. So by issuing a regulation it has overstepped its jurisdiction, is the sentiment.

In recent times, Trai’s regulation mandating mobile operators to monetarily compensate subscribers for calls drops was struck down by the Supreme Court.

“Apple’s iOS operating system is quite rigid over privacy issues compared to Android system. So much so that in the past they have even fought in the US with security agencies by refusing access to them in a case of a terror suspect. However, in the row with Trai Apple is not opposed to checking unsolicited calls and messages. It is just that its approach is different from that of the Trai,” said a source.

Though the DND app has been there for some months now it is still to gain popularity with users considering that so far the downloads are only 100,000 when the overall mobile subscriber base is over 1 billion.

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