With the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) refusing to postpone the November 5 deadline for telcos to stop using Aadhaar-based electronic-know your customer (e-KYC) process for new connections, the country's top players have begun rolling out an alternative customer authentication system.
Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio Infocomm have reportedly already started the implementation of the new system. "The new digital KYC process is live and is being rolled out nationally. DoT instructions allow for provisional rollout of digital KYC and Vodafone Idea, India's leading telecom service provider, is the first to commence this," the telco said in a statement yesterday.
Citing sources in the know, The Economic Times reported that Vodafone Idea has already given demos to the DoT twice and has shared details of the process with all stakeholders, including the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), the Aadhaar-issuing body.
Similarly, Jio is reportedly implementing the alternative digital KYC process in multiple circles. The new process is paperless and consists of a customer acquisition form embedded with photographs of subscribers and scanned images of their address proof and identity cards.
A Bharti Airtel official told PTI that the alternate digital KYC process has begun in select circles including Delhi, UP (East) and UP (West) and will be extended to other locations in the coming days. The source added the new digital KYC process entails scanning of the proof of address and identity, embedding live customer photo and online customer acquisition form, and that the entire process will be digital.
Last week, telecom operators had approached the government requesting that they be allowed to continue with Aadhaar-based eKYC process till November 20, while they implement the new digital process. Their stand was that while they would submit their proof of concept for the new digital process by the given deadline, it would not be feasible to immediately stop Aadhaar-based e-KYC because operators had to reach out to millions of retail stores, many in far-flung areas. However, the industry body had assured the DoT that telcos had "completely stopped" Aadhaar-based re-verification of older subscribers, as per its directives issued a week ago.
"We are no one to decide on an extension. If operators want any extension, it has to come from UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India). We are just following the Supreme Court's orders," a DoT official told the daily. In September the top court had ruled that private companies can no longer use Aadhaar data, at a time when telcos were onboarding more than 90% of their new subscribers using the unique ID.
The apex court's ruling meant that the telcos would have to revert to the more time-taking and costlier means of physically verifying subscriber details until the alternative method got fully implemented. So telcos are reportedly looking to gradually phase out the eKYC process, even as the alternative digital KYC system gets rolled out in new locations, and stabilises. The DoT is expected to meet the telcos on Wednesday to further discuss the matter.
(With PTI inputs; edited by Sushmita Choudhury Agarwal)