Inside the Blockchain Draft by TRAI to Curb Unsolicited Spam Calls

On May 30, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released a draft of Telecom Commercial Communication Customer Preference Regulation, 2018.

Under the new regulations, TRAI aims to curb the menace of pesky calls and messages using the blockchain technology. The draft though prefers to call it as Distributed Ledger technology.

Here are some key highlights on the use of DLT from the the 57 page proposal.

Distributed Ledger for Everything

Under the proposal, TRAI has asked the access providers (mobile operators, broadband operators, etc) to capture all the information on a Distributed Ledger:

  • Entity Registrations – Entities that wish to send promotional communication need to register on a distributed ledger (DL) maintained by Access Providers. Entities that send Transactional messages must register too.
  • Content Templates – The content sent by commercial players need to adhere to specific templates and these templates will be stored on a DL.
  • Customer Preferences – Customer preferences to receive/block such messages should be maintained on a DL and they should come in effect with ‘near real time’ turnaround.
  • Complaints – Customer complaints of unsolicited calls/messages to be stored on DL with the details of all actions taken on them as well.

Smart Contracts for Control

TRAI has proposed that all access providers either use permissioned or private DLT networks ‘to operate smart contracts among entities for effectively controlling the flow of Commercial Communication

There is no mention of smart contracts as such in the proposal besides this one line. As we understand that access providers will have to communicate with each other using smart contracts to stop an entity if needed from commercial messaging.

Not a Common Blockchain

In the proposal for deploying a Distributed ledger, TRAI has actually offered the access providers to work independently or in collaboration with other access providers. This means, Airtel can have its own distributed ledger different than Vodafone, or Vodafone and Airtel could make one together.

The access providers can choose to run a private or permissioned DLT network but they do have to adhere to regulations set by TRAI.

Private Blockchain – A distributed ledger network that does not share data with any users.

Permissioned – Not fully Private nor public, a customised blockchain with permissions to few subset of users for taking actions on the blockchain like entering records, building consensus, voting, etc.

For the customer on the Receiver’s end

TRAI has proposed various preferences for the customers to choose from for receiving or banning commercial communications.

Preferences

The customers receive various preferences to choose from to block or unblock services. With the Distributed Ledger tech, TRAI is proposing to handle changes in customer preferences in near real time basis.

  • You can block or unblock calls/sms based on categories like Bankings, education, real estate and so on.
  • Customer can block or unblock calls based on the type of communication like voice calls, sms, robo calls, etc
  • Block or unblock calls/sms for specific periods of day like 6 AM to 8 AM or 12 AM to 6 AM and so on.
  • You can also block or unblock calls/sms for specific days of the week like blocking all on Sunday but unblocked on Monday.

Complaints

Customers can raise a complaint if they received a promotional call or message despite having blocked the services and it should be handled in the following way by the access providers

  • Complaints can be raised by voice call, SMS, Mobile apps or a website within three days of incident occurrence.
  • The complaint will record the telephone number of the unsolicited caller and the receiver, the time of call and a few other details on a distributed ledger and provide a unique complaint registration number.
  • Terminating access provider – the network that received the call will send the details of the complaint in near real time to the originating network operator, meanwhile also verifying the customer details for validity.
  • The originating network will check if the caller had completed all pre-checks before making the call in one business day – basically did the caller have permission to call the customer?
    • If yes, the complaint is closed
    • If no, the network will take action against the caller and inform the customer who raised the complaint about the action taken

How will Distributed Ledger Technology Help?

The biggest gain coming out of the new regulations is the reduced turn around time. For instance, as per the current regulations, the the originating network and the receiving network get 72 hours to verify a complaint.

In the proposed new regulations, they will only have one business day to resolve a complaints.

If the networks do work together in building a distributed ledger together, the time taken for a lot of activities can be reduced. An entity shall have to only register once for sending commercial communication. Any complaints raised by customers will be stored on an immutable system hence will not be changed and can be referenced for years.

We have already seen the benefits of a private blockchain in the trade finance industry, the deployment of DLT in Telecom can yield similar results.

[Read: Blockchain solution to Fight Fraud in India]

When are the new Regulations coming in effect?

The regulations are coming in effect on July 1, 2018. The access providers will have three months to come up with their code of practices and submit to TRAI.

TRAI has allowed the access providers the liberty to prepare their code of practices based on the regulations. They have also proposed that if the COP are not acceptable, TRAI will prepare standard code of practices which then all access providers have to follow.

TRAI’s proposal will be one of the largest deployment of blockchain technology the world has seen.

What do you think about TRAI’s proposal on using DLT for curbing commercial calls? Let us know in the comments below



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