Bharti Airtel, India's second-largest service provider, has awarded a pan-India multi-million-dollar blockchain contract to IBM, according to media reports.
The blockchain-based solution will be used to bring down the number of promotional calls and messages that subscribers receive. Once it has been deployed, Airtel's 284 million subscribers will be able to control what kind of messages they are sent. The system will also help to reduce cases of fraud.
Unwanted and pesky calls have become a massive issue in India. Unregistered telemarketers access customers' personal information, including phone numbers, and then use it to call and send unsolicited messages.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been unsuccessful in trying to address the problem. New Unsolicited Commercial Communication (UCC) rules have been in the works for some time.
Last year, TRAI received as many as 2 million complaints, even as it disconnected 1.4 million numbers and blacklisted 460,000. The regulator also said it would impose a penalty of between 1,000 Indian rupees ($14.3) and INR5 million ($71,795) for each violation per month by service providers that do not comply with guidelines.
In addition, service providers were asked by TRAI to make use of blockchain technology to bring down the number of unwanted commercial calls and messages, and to obtain customer approval before telemarketing messages are sent. Its deal with IBM should help Airtel to comply with the TRAI's recommendations.
IBM is not the only tech giant involved with blockchain technology in India. Tech Mahindra also claims to have partnered with an Indian service provider on blockchain, although it has not revealed the name of the telco. With other service providers under regulatory pressure to act, blockchain developers could be in for additional business in the coming months.
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading