Explained: How blockchain can kill pesky spam calls

Blockchain or a distributed ledger is an innovation which caters to the needs of the growing economy, providing a system which is secure and accessible to all. You might already have an idea about it if you have been following our blogs (If not, follow this link).

To reiterate, blockchain runs on a decentralised platform enabling peer-to-peer interactions following a consensus, hence, working in synergy. It can benefit industries by laying a framework that takes care of the security needs.

Almost all telcos in India are actively seeking ways and means to deploy blockchain for various use cases. We are optimistic that telcos being at the centre of a digital renaissance are going to be a key mover in making blockchain permeate across the landscape and blockchain could be a humongous boon in India. The telecom industry is currently going through a massive transformation and telecom operators will need to reinvent themselves as digital service providers and enablers in order to remain relevant.

Practical uses of blockchain in telecom services

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), in 2018, wanted to make sure that only registered telemarketers have access to phone databases and that user consent to receive such communication is explicitly recorded. The regulator asked them to use the distributed ledger technology to control the flow of commercial communication on their network.

TRAI also issued a circular on how to create a system for registering telemarketers and making the complaint mechanism better. “This is a step in the right direction by TRAI. Blockchain can effectively create a signature or a hash of an asset and instead of transmitting that entire digital asset, in this case, the phone number, you can only put the hash on that database which can be accessed by the registered telemarketer. It will be like a virtual token of that digital asset. Blockchain can secure this database but in this case security is also needed at the point of origin of the data and before it is stored on the ledger i.e. ensuring that there is no leakage at the end of the telecom service provider generating the number,” said Ajeet Khurana, a former head of the Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Committee of the Internet and Mobile Association of India.

Telcos working with IBM

TRAI’s goal with this move is to curb unsolicited calls and SMSes, they want to completely bring an end to spamming and collection of user’s data (and the breach of it). DLT, however, is safe and manages data well. International Business Machine (IBM) is planning to work with Indian telecom firms to offer blockchain solutions that can work in Mobile Number Portability (MNP) and Do Not Call (DNC) registries.

MNP lets you keep your number even after you switch to a different carrier. DNC, on the other hand, allows you to restrict marketing and promotional calls from the salespeople. Raghavan confirmed that the newest telecom blockchain application will enable firms to accumulate MNP and DNC with the consent of the customer on a privately distributed ledger. This will eventually help the government agency to monitor the network better and spot any misconduct from any public official quickly.

“We have completed proofs of concept and pilots with all the major telecom providers and with TRAI in this space,” said Sriram Raghavan, vice president of IBM Research. “We anticipate that going into the New Year, we’ll start to see blockchain solutions getting rolled out.” Although he didn’t mention the telco companies. IBM & TRAI have been working together to address the issue of coordination among multiple parties and w.r.t. DNC registries and MNP. Everything should be recorded as entries.

This will benefit TRAI in catching malfeasance and will give better control with their upgraded monitoring techniques. The DNC registry will be the first to move towards DLT while MNP involves at least two telco companies and can also benefit with the technology. We can also expect some improvements in mobile data records and mobile network systems, consequently, benefitting the end consumer as well as the telcos itself.

The distributed ledger method of information verification, or blockchain, is a complex concept to understand, especially since the entire methodology is not tangible. However, the use cases are very real and will have an immense impact on India’s billion mobile users. There will be a day in the not so distant future when spam calls are a distant memory. When that happens, you’ll have blockchain to thank for it.

Explained: How blockchain can kill pesky spam calls was originally published in Data Driven Investor on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.