Telecom operators across India have been asked by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to resume the blocking of non-compliant bulk commercial SMS messages again. The en masse blocking of bulk SMS will start again from April 1, in a bid to cut down on phishing scams and other fraudulent entities that were using the pretext of fake commercial services to dupe users. However, after an initial round of blocking earlier in March, many users had failed to receive OTPs of banking transactions on their phones, leading to numerous complaints from users of all fronts.
However, this time, such an OTP outage is not expected to occur. According to a Financial Express report, the principal entities (PEs) who use commercial bulk SMS services, such as banks and other services that employ SMS-based OTPs for login verification, have claimed success rates of up to 98 percent in delivering SMS messages based on the new, TRAI-prescribed SMS format. However, telecom operators still claim that plenty of services are still non-compliant to the new format, and therefore, there may be some service outage when the mandatory blocking is implemented starting April 1.
The Indian telecom regulatory body has mandated the use of blockchain-based Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) earlier this year. DLT specifies the use of a mandated format of text for authorised commercial messages, and all PEs such as banks were subsequently mandated to update their messaging services in accordance to this format. However, many parties had seemingly failed to comply with this, as was revealed in March.
In a letter addressed to telcos on March 31, the TRAI said, “SMS of few PEs are getting rejected because of variable character length more than 30 characters and also due to variation in text submitted for delivery from the text registered at the time of content templates. The reason of variation in the text is told to be due to variation of text across multiple sources of the same PE. All PEs are required to meet these requirements, in case of non-compliance, their messages are liable to be rejected.”
Matching of static text across bulk messages, coupled with a stringent limit of 30 variable characters are two key elements that are designed to limit spam across commercial SMS services. However, reports suggest that the prevalent use of different SMS formats across different departments of the same PE may have also been the root cause of disruption of regular SMS services. Starting today, banks will hope to have matched the recommended formats in order to avoid repeated failures in delivery of important communication.