If you use a mobile phone in India, chances are that you’ll receive a similar text message as above in the next few weeks. It took me by surprise, I must admit. This will be the third or the fourth time I’ll be ‘verifying’ my credentials again.
Telecom companies have been forced to re-verify users at regular intervals of time. While this makes sense, it’s highly inconvenient for subscribers. The pain of visiting a mobile phone service provider’s local outlet, submitting all documents again, waiting for things to go smoothly, it’s just too painful. Thankfully this time it’s just eKYC (electronic Know Your Customer) process.
But don’t expect eKYC to run smoothly either.
eKYC depends on a working data connection, electricity, fingerprints, OTPs, and a few other parameters. It’ll be a walk in the park for most urban locations. I can’t even imagine how the rural population will handle all this, unless telecom companies go the extra mile and offer re-verification services at their doorstep.
Telecom companies have been asked to get all subscribers re-verified, with eKYC linked to Aadhaar, latest by February 2018. In case any subscriber is left after that, their mobile connection is likely to be deemed ‘illegal’. That’s hardly a surprise considering the amount of BS we’ve seen from the government when it comes to Aadhaar linkage.
“I am unclear about the benefit that will arise out of the exercise where we will have to re-evaluate all the subscribers,” said Arpita Pal Agarwal, partner and leader—telecom industry practice—at consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers India Pvt. Ltd. “It will add additional costs to the (telecom) sector, which it at the moment cannot afford.”
It’s not surprising the telecom companies aren’t going to like this. All this at a time when they’ve had to bring down data charges for LTE access in the country. Consumers aren’t going to love this move either. But have we ever had a real choice?