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Indian telcos hope to use Aadhaar biometric database for faster subscriber verification


Indian telecom operators plan to turn to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in an effort to get approval for using the Aadhaar biometric database to speed up subscriber verification since the home ministry is said to have objected to the idea citing security concerns, according to a report by the Economic Times.

The move comes a few weeks after India’s Supreme Court placed a cease order on the national Indian government concerning the use of Aadhaar data. Last week, the Court barred the country’s Election Commission from linking electoral data to the Aadhaar system until the greater question of privacy and the use of the biometric system itself is settled.

The telecos have requested to use the Aadhaar database to transition to an online system of subscriber verification, however, the home ministry has stated that it does not feel as though the biometric data will be sufficient enough information to establish a customer’s address.

Those carriers operating on GSM and CDMA platforms will see the help of the PMO, which had previously recommended the digitization of the mobile subscriber verification process as part of the government’s ‘Digital India’ initiative.

The operators are planning to write to the PMO asking it to use the Aadhaar database to sell SIM cards or connections to provide a more convenient, secure and cost-effective system than the current system, according to one of the sources.

Although the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) supports the idea of Aadhaar-based verification, the home ministry has not yet put the protocol into place.

“The home ministry isn’t convinced that biometric authentication is a foolproof system for establishing a mobile customer’s proof of address,” said one of the sources.

The existing system of verification requires employees to fill out a lot of paperwork and comes in the way of market expansion, said one of the telecom companies.

The Apex Advisory Council for Telecom in India, which is a joint telecom industry initiative of the Cellular Operators Association of India and Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India, will likely send a letter to the PMO recommending it advise the DoT to eliminate the current subscriber verification process and implement the Aadhar e-KYC service on a permanent basis as soon as possible.

In the past few months, India’s leading mobile carriers including Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone India and emerging 4G carrier Reliance Jio Infocomm successfully completed a mobile subscriber verification pilot program using Aadhaar in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Lucknow and Bhopal.

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