The Indian Telecommunication Bill, a draft version of which was released late last year for public comment, should ideally take its final form by July, Minister of Railways, Communications, Electronics and Information Technology Ashwini Vaishnaw told reporters on Tuesday. “We have consulted practically every possible stakeholder,” Mr. Vaishnaw said.
“The primary focus [for the Bill] is that the telecom sector in India should be globally benchmarked, should be a sunrise sector, should have lot of scope for innovation, a simple regulatory framework, and … user protection has to be the prime focus,” Mr. Vaishnaw added.
Mr. Vaishnaw was announcing the release of the Sanchar Saathi portal, a website that brings together initiatives the government has already released, such as TAFCOP, a system for users to find out how many SIM cards are registered in their name, and the Central Equipment Identity Register (CEIR), a system that lets people who lose their phone or have it stolen remotely block the handset for use on Indian telecom networks.
Using ASTR, a facial recognition system rolled out by the Department of Telecommunications for detecting individuals who register more than 9 mobile connections (the maximum allowed), the government was able to detect many fraudulent SIM registrations. Mr. Vaishnaw said at least one individual had fraudulently registered over 5,900 mobile connections to their name.
Of 40 lakh potentially fraudulent connections detected by ASTR, which uses photos obtained from telecom users’ Know-Your-Customer (KYC) identity documents, 36 lakh connections have been disconnected around India, Mr. Vaishnaw said, adding that the data of users in ASTR was analysed in a secure way, and that “constitutional lawyers” in the government had vetted the system. 87 crore connections were vetted using ASTR, Mr. Vaishnaw said.
Over 40,000 points of sale offering such registrations were blacklisted, the government indicated in a background note, with West Bengal accounting for over a quarter of the banned vendors.
Mr. Vaishnaw said the government was “actively engaged” with WhatsApp on the issue of spam calls, and asked anyone with information on how scamsters were obtaining fraudulent SIM cards to report the modus operandi to the government, assuring them that full anonymity would be granted to tipsters.
Among messaging platforms, Mr. Vaishnaw said that the government was only working with WhatsApp on the issue of spam, and would work with other companies also.