ACT moots self-KYC process for issuing SIMs to new mobile subscribers amid lockdown; writes to DoT

ACT, in a letter to Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash, said that during this "unprecedented lockdown period", there are no options available for buying a new mobile connection.

With new subscriber acquisitions virtually coming to a halt amid the lockdown to contain coronavirus, the Apex Advisory Council for Telecom in India (ACT) has approached the government to allow a well-defined self-KYC process for subscriber verification for new mobile connections.

The Apex Advisory Council for Telecom in India (ACT), a joint industry initiative supported by Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) and telecom service providers, said that such an alternate digital process is the "need of the hour" given the uncertainty regarding the period for which social distancing restrictions will be imposed in the country.

ACT, in a letter to Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash, said that during this "unprecedented lockdown period", there are no options available for buying a new mobile connection.


"Hence there is an urgent need to facilitate customers for obtaining new mobile connections through a self KYC process which can be performed by an end to end online digital process by the customer himself/herself," ACT said.

To maintain and practice the need of social distancing in the time to come, the industry has suggested that a self-KYC process for issuing new mobile connections and SIM exchanges/swapping should be made available for the people.

"As you are aware that at present, due to unavailability of such a process, the public at large is being devoid of telecom services during the lockdown/curfew," the letter said.
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Proposing a step by step self-KYC process for subscriber verification in case of issue of SIM cards to new mobile subscribers and SIM exchange using online facilities, it said such a process will not only eliminate the need for any physical contact but also ensure that the SIM card is delivered only to the bonafide user of the service at the address mentioned in the proof of address.

The self-KYC mooted by the industry involves filling of forms, capturing live photo of the customer with geo-tag and time stamp, as well as one-time passwords.

"We assure you that the proposed process meets all the requirements of KYC guidelines issued by the Government and are only amended to the extent of meeting them through online measures. Also, requisite safeguards have been built in the process to meet the ultimate objective of KYC guidelines," it said.

Emphasising the need for working out an alternate digital process "as there is uncertainty regarding the period of the social distancing restrictions being imposed", ACT urged Telecom Department to come out with suitable guidelines to allow the industry to use such a process in addition to the current process.
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"The proposed process will not only provide a reliable, speedier and hassle free alternative but will also serve as a great convenience to the customers," it said.

The plea comes at a time when the new subscriber addition tally for mobile operators is estimated to have tanked to 0.5 million in March on account of lockdown, and the numbers are expected to stay muted this month, according to industry experts.
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They noted that by mid-March, many states had already started imposing movement restrictions for general public to combat the spread of coronavirus.

The 21-day nationwide lockdown was announced on March 24.

The lockdowns and curbs pulled down number of fresh SIM connections for the month, they observed.

Sector observers have said that the situation is likely to continue this month as all India lockdown is scheduled to be in place till April 14.
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