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DoT Wants Telecom Operators To Stop Aadhaar-Based Biometric Authentication

The deadline to submit the plan was October 15 but operators have sought more time.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT), in accordance with a Supreme Court order, will soon come up with a notification asking telecom operators to stop biometric authentication on the basis of the Aadhaar.

According to sources, the notification will be out in a couple of days.

The DoT will withdraw its earlier order on Aadhaar authentication. Operators will have to go back to physical verification for on-boarding customers for the time being while the DoT prepares an alternative digital mechanism.

According to sources, around 95 per cent of the verification of customers takes place through Aadhaar authentication and going back to physical verification will increase the cost for mobile operators, which are in financial stress.

The maximum impact will be borne by Reliance Jio, which has been adding millions of customers every month. According to the data shared by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), Jio added over 11 million customers in July and 12 million in August. In contrast, older operators have been adding around a million or fewer customers every month.

The DoT has held meetings with telecom operators to chart an alternative digital mechanism for verifying customers but as it will take some time to roll out, operators have to rely on physical documents of customers.

The Supreme Court, in its decision on September 26, had debarred private companies from seeking Aadhaar-based authentication, terming it as “unconstitutional”. However, even after the order, mobile operators kept doing biometric authentication because the DoT was yet to ask them to stop it. Sources in the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) said mobile operators as well as fintech companies were informed about stopping Aadhaar authentication and in case they continued to do it, it would be contempt of court. The UIDAI had asked telecom companies to submit a plan to stop using Aadhaar for customer authentication.

The deadline to submit the plan was October 15 but operators have sought more time. Executives of telecom operators said they would abide by the orders of the DoT. An official in the DoT said telcos had to comply with the Supreme Court order but the department would ensure that customers did not face inconvenience during the verification process. – Business Standard

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