Telecom service providers (TSPs) have begun to monitor and prevent spam calls since May 1, with the help of an artificial intelligence and machine language-based system acting on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) latest directive on the matter, its officials told Business Standard.
Touted as the first big technological measure against the growing menace of unsolicited commercial communications, all TSPs have confirmed to Trai that they have rolled out the AI/ML tool.
The filter system works on the distributed ledger technology (DLT) platform used by TSPs, and is set to go for incremental updates, rules for which will soon be released, they added.
DLT platforms are digital systems for keeping and managing the record of sender IDs and templates.
In India, they are run by TSPs such as Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Bharat Sanchar Nigam. Businesses need to register on DLTs by submitting details and get access to exclusive headers and message templates — keywords denoting a business or brand that pops up when a phone user receives a message.
The problem often starts when these businesses, legally classified as principal entities, purchase bulk short messaging service (SMS) from a telemarketer to send SMS texts to clients and customers.
Telemarketers have to be registered on the DLT platform.
Officials said Trai will soon also check the progress made by telecom companies on other measures to stop spam calls.
These include a direction to TSPs to ensure no promotional calls are made from 10-digit mobile numbers.
The regulator had also discussed the idea of telcos installing a system whereby a caller’s name and image would flash on the device screen on receiving a call.
This suggestion had faced significant pushback on grounds of privacy.
Earlier this year, Trai had cracked down on telemarketing firms that spam message inboxes and asked TSPs to scrub their DLT platforms clean and block all unverified telemarketer accounts.
In a key move, it said entities involved in message transmission should be identifiable and tracked, if required.
For the time being, Trai had asked TSPs to immediately deactivate temporary headers after the time duration for which they were created, and ensure that content variables in the message template do not have the flexibility to insert undesired content.
DCA tech soon
Despite the latest development, Trai believes pesky calls are one area where a lot of work is left.
“The government has been working on introducing other incremental measures as well.
"There is a list of technologies that are under discussion,” an official said.
Among these, the digital content authorisation (DCA) technology has won the highest approval from government stakeholders.
DCA will take customers’ consent for the brands or companies they would like to receive communication from.
It will also expedite the process of receiving consumer consent on DLT platforms.
Officials said the proposal to soon launch DCA also had the backing of the Joint Committee of Regulators, a key inter-ministerial body set up last year to frame an action plan to curb spam and frauds using telecom resources.
On February 23, the committee met in New Delhi under the chairmanship of the Trai chief.