A month after issuing directions to block unverified promotional header templates and messages, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Monday asked the telecom operators to expedite the process in order to curb the menace of financial frauds and spams.
Since telcos only own the network and promotional messages are sent by enterprises through telemarketers, the telecom regulator wants the telcos to ask these principal entities or enterprises especially banks and financial institutions to remove their unused message templates and headers. The regulator asked them to clean those content templates so that the same can not be misused by fraudsters.
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According to telcos, only 7-8% of the principal entities (PEs) have complied with the directions of Trai on cleaning of headers, templates and removal of those templates not in use. However, banking and financial institutions which constitute the majority of the frauds have not yet complied with the directions.
“We will write to banks and all the financial institutions that they have not started the cleansing of the headers and templates. If this continues, we will be forced to block all the SMS on the DLT (distributed ledger system),” Trai chairman PD Vaghela told reporters after meeting the telcos.
Trai would soon meet banks and financial institutions to take stock of the situation and understand the issues regarding compliance.
Currently, there are in total 6 million templates and 600,000 headers and out of that many templates are yet to be reviewed and cleaned up.
DLT platforms are run by telecom operators where businesses who are involved in sending bulk promotional or transactional SMS need to register by giving their business details, including sender IDs, and SMS templates.
In February, Trai directed telcos to block all unverified and unused headers and templates within 30 days and 60 days, respectively.
In order to send communication to end users, there are three stakeholders involved, enterprises (who want to send communication in the form of voice, SMS), CPaaS players or telemarketers which send bulk SMS/calls on behalf of enterprises and provide application integration with the telecom network and the telecom operator which owns the network and the distributed ledger technology (DLT) platforms.
Apart from asking the telcos to expedite cleaning up of such templates, Trai has also asked them to implement an AI/ML (artificial intelligence and machine learning) system to detect unsolicited communication. The regulator will review the implementation on May 1.
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“We are working for consumer interest. The AI/ML system, combined with a regulatory sandbox system (largely for detecting calls from 10-digit mobile numbers) will significantly reduce the menace,” Vaghela said.
Vodafone Idea is developing a regulatory sandbox which will use an algorithm to block fraudulent or spam calls. The company is expected to present the same to Trai in the first week of April.
Following the presentation, Trai will approve a pilot project and upon successful completion of the pilot project, it will issue the regulations around the same for all the telcos.
“Every telco is free to implement their own sandbox based on the principles and guidelines suggested by Trai. This will come after the pilot project is completed,” Vaghela said.
Simultaneously, Trai is also working on a similar model to curb voice-based spams. “We will bring all voice-based telemarketers on a common DLT for better monitoring and call,” Vaghela said, adding that the same will also be implemented by May 1.
Amongst other key things, the crackdown on unsolicited communication also includes sharing of suspected spammers and scammers by service providers on a common platform and blocking of message transactions proactively.
Further, Trai will also ask the department of telecommunications to allocate fresh series of phone numbers for voice call for transaction or service calls. This means that there will be a different series of phone numbers which will help consumers to detect service calls from some institutions like banks, etc.
The government will also share all the complaints received on cyber crime cell with the telecom operators.