A countrywide reverification of mobile phone connections as mandated by the Supreme court, will cost telecom companies at least Rs1,000 crore.
A bulk of India's 1.1 billion telecom subscribers will soon have to go through a fresh verification exercise based on their Aadhaar identification, following an order of the Supreme Court last month. The process has to be completed by 6 February 2018.
"All licensees shall intimate their existing subscribers through advertisement in print /electronic media as well as SMS about the orders of the Supreme Court for re-verification activity and shall upload the complete details of this activity on their website," said a notice issued by department of telecommunications on Thursday.
The notice comes within a month of the top court order making it mandatory for telecom subscribers to be re-verified via Aadhaar cards in a push to root out those who have used fake documents to obtain connections.
The SC order, passed on 6 February, provides till 6 February 2018 to complete the verification process (See: SC asks centre to verify identity of all mobile phone users).
The fresh verification means that only those with Aadhaar verification can remain as mobile phone subscribers. The move would be a big drag on the older ones as most of their subscribers were signed up before the government allowed the Aadhaar-linked e-KYC verification process last August. Most subscriber additions after August won't need to be reverified.
New entrant Reliance Jio Infocomm will be the least hit as most of its 100 million users have the Aadhaar-based e-KYC since it started services in early September.
The department has drawn up an extensive methodology after its meeting with industry and representatives from the Prime Minister's Office on February 13, the notice said.
For Aadhaar based re-verification, the telecom operator will have to send an SMS to a subscriber with a verification code after establishing that the SIM card is physically available with the person.
"Only after this activity the licensee shall proceed for e-KYC process. The licensee shall then seek confirmation from the subscriber about the re-verification of his/her mobile number after 24 hours through SMS," the notice said.
Phone companies went through a similar exercise a few years ago after the government asked them to conduct a know-your-customer (KYC) vetting process by calling for ID and address proofs in order to tighten security and clamp down on use by criminals and terrorists.
"It is indeed a big challenge for the industry as this will entail capital expenditure," said Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents the top telcos, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio Infocomm.
"It could cost at least Rs1,000 crore in training people, getting recognition devices and setting up processes," he said, adding, however, that in the long run, the move would be beneficial to all, including the industry and the government.