The move comes as a breather for the industry, which was bracing for another round of SMS outages as the filters were supposed to be activated again on Wednesday after Trai’s seven-day deadline ended. The activation of the filtering mechanism on March 8 had led to about 400 million SMSes not being delivered, including critical OTPs from banks and other services. Trai had to intervene by granting a seven-day extension, which ends midnight Tuesday, directing operators to switch off the filters.
Testing mechanism for companies
According to a March 16 letter to telecom companies, Trai said telcos must “resume the (content) scrubbing as envisaged and in case of failure of the messages due to any reasons including content ID, mismatch of template etc. same may be recorded. However, message may be allowed to deliver to the recipient.”
Content scrubbing, or filtering, refers to verifying SMS content using pre-registered templates.
A report indicating the percentage of traffic that failed during scrubbing along with reasons should be sent to the registered entity and telemarketer at the end of the day, Trai said. A summary of these records must be submitted to the authority twice a week — on Tuesday and Friday. The scrubbing performance will be reviewed by Trai on March 23, according to the letter, which ET has seen.
Industry executives said the move will also ensure a testing mechanism for companies to check the faults in their registering procedure and rectify them to be in compliance with the rigid blockchain-based system.
“Technically speaking, the scrubbers were never switched off since March 8… We were not blocking traffic but closely monitoring the causes of failures for each SMS and reaching out to individual companies to resolve their case,” said a person directly involved with blockchain operations. “So far, we have already white listed 1.2 million SMS templates, which means they are passing the scrub test. Our guess is, if we are able to identify 300,000 more, it will bring 100% traffic into compliance.”
Telecom companies say it is a win-win move for all stakeholders, including principal entities, telemarketers and the regulator as well.
“Trai and telcos are under extreme pressure to implement all phases of this regulation because of the high court order and cannot grant any more extensions,” a senior telecom executive said. “Companies have got their testing allowance as they demanded… Now every entity will be dealt individually and face serious actions for non-compliance.”
A Trai official said that the industry had sought a suspension until the end of April but the authority also has to keep in mind the Delhi High Court ruling calling for strict and immediate implementation of the regulator’s 2018 order to put in place a blockchain-based mechanism to check pesky messages.
“Some (entities) have asked for month-end but HC has given orders earlier,” an official told ET. “And why just month end, they can ask for year-end as well. One has to look into this carefully.”
According to the February 4 Delhi High Court order in the Paytm versus Trai case, telecom operators must strictly enforce Telecom Communications Customer Preference Regulations, 2018, to check the flow of fraud SMSes duping customers, failing which telcos may face legal action.
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