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Vodafone, Idea, Jio Submit Plan To Close Down Aadhaar-Based Authentication

The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had asked telecom companies to submit the plans by October 15 after the Supreme Court’s September ruling that private companies can no longer use Aadhaar data.

In line with the Aadhaar-issuing body’s directive, the country’s top three telcos -Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm – have reportedly submitted their action plans to stop using the biometric database for customer authentication. The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) had asked telecom companies to submit the plans by October 15 after the Supreme Court’s September ruling that private companies can no longer use Aadhaar data.

However, according to The Economic Times, the three telcos have flagged off cost implications, saying that although they are working with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for alternative verification methods, the sudden change will need more investments. This will further burden the financially-stretched operators.

“We have told the UIDAI that massive investments have been made in setting up infrastructure for digital ‘know your customer’ (KYC). Operators have invested in biometric devices and workforce training. It will be a colossal wastage specifically for companies in telecom sector, who are already reeling under severe financial stress,” a senior executive at a telco told the daily.

The telcos also pointed out that Aadhaar-based verification was swifter and worked well in rural markets. But migrating to alternative systems of authenticating mobile users will take time since the firms will not only have to train their workforce but also educate consumers on the new processes. “We have highlighted that these factors will be challenging in the competitive market today,” said an executive of another telco, who was aware of his firm’s response to UIDAI.

According to the daily, some of the other telcos have asked for more time to share their exit plans since directions from DoT were still awaited.

Industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), meanwhile, has taken the stand that the telecom department must give clear directions to telcos on KYC norms to be adopted by telcos. “COAI has not written to UIDAI. We have left it to individual operators to respond as they see fit. Our position is that Department of Telecom must provide clarity on the issues raised by the UIDAI,” COAI Director General Rajan Mathews told PTI. However, the Apex Advisory Council for Telecom in India (ACT), which includes COAI, approached DoT a few days back with alternative options for the verification process in place of the Aadhaar-based one. – Business Today

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