India’s three biggest telecoms companies with more than a billion subscribers combined are working on blockchain programs to address the problem of spam phone calls. This comes as a response to new regulations imposed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) which has a compliance deadline of May’s end 2019.
According to the Economic Times, the largest provider, Vodafone Idea (395 million subscribers), is working with Tanla to roll out the Tanla TruBloq solution. Number two telecoms company Airtel is working with IBM but also has a relationship with Tanla. It’s conceivable this could be to achieve interoperability. Technology consultancy Tech Mahindra is helping Reliance Jio with its solution.
All the solutions are blockchain based and empower customers to decide what messages and calls they receive. Tanla describes the TruBloq solution as an ecosystem of regulators, telecoms operators, their customers, telemarketers and the companies that employ them. The aim isn’t to prevent telemarketing but to ensure they comply with license conditions.
“BSE [Bombay Stock Exchange] is India’s leading exchange group which relies on SMS to keep millions of investors updated about their investments and transactions,” said Amit Mahajan, BSE Head Information Products and Procurement. “SMS is fast and effective but also prone to phishing and frauds.”
“We are happy to note that with TRAI’s new regulation, SPAM and other unsolicited communications will be nipped in the bud and branded communication will help build trust and faith with end users.”
With over a billion users benefiting, this is likely the largest use case of blockchain in the telecoms industry, particularly one that’s in production.
Indeed, this could also just be the first step. Operators can further leverage blockchain for mobile number portability, supply chain streamlining and other settlement solutions.
Rajan Mathews, director-general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, highlighted the importance of cooperation in solving the issue: “Everybody that is in the ecosystem has to participate, including (state-run) BSNL. Telcos have to have a standard operating procedure that has now been put in place.”
Around the world, there are numerous telecoms initiatives. One of the biggest is the Carrier Blockchain Study Group, which includes 14 major telecoms carriers, including SoftBank, Sprint, and KT. Telefónica used to be part of the group but is currently working with IBM. Syniverse, a telecommunications technology company owned by private equity company The Carlyle Group, is also working with IBM on a roaming solution. It ran a pilot with Orange and Russia’s Mobile TeleSystems (MTS).