To add user nos, telcos weigh sale of contactless SIMs

The country's top operators are busy thrashing out a secure, but totally contactless digital customer acquisition process.

Kolkata: The country's top-three mobile operators are busy thrashing out a secure, but totally contactless digital customer acquisition process, to arrest a sharp fall in mobile connections sales amid the Covid-19-induced lockdown. Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea (VIL) and Reliance Jio will shortly seek approvals from the telecom department (DoT) and the home ministry for implementing the process once there is consensus on the ways to ensure all e-KYC (electronic-know your customer) parameters can be securely met digitally, without any potential customer having to actually turn up at a mobile store to buy a connection, industry executives aware of the development have said.

“Operators are aware that people need mobile connections but are facing hardships in getting them amid the nationwide lockdown, which is why, they are collectively working on a secure technology solution that can make SIMs available when people need it the most, and also boost customer adds,” said Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), that represents the three telcos. Under the proposed exercise, the telcos are also likely to seek government approval to arrange secure and hygienic home delivery of SIM cards via couriers in the event of a prolonged lockdown.

The development comes at a time get new customers amid a countrywide lockdown to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. According to estimates, the three carriers have collectively added only 500,000 new customers in March as against 2.5-3 million monthly adds in normal times. Before the lockdown, digital recharges were around a third of the overall recharges. But now, whatever little recharges are happening are all digital. There is scarcely any footfall at mobile stores and not even much mobile number portability (MNP) is happening as most people are confined to their homes.

A Vodafone Idea spokesperson said the company is “developing a fully-automated, digital customer acquisition process, allowing customers to join its network from the comfort of their homes,” in line with its go-digital strategy. The service would be rolled out soon, the person said. Airtel and Jio did not reply to ET’s queries as of press time on Friday. A top industry executive, who requested not to be named, said telcos would seek government nod once they are ready with a contactless, electronic solution that meets e-KYC parameters, as in securely authenticating a customer’s identity and address.




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