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Updated: India Bans Bulk SMS Till October 1st 2010; Why The Ban Won’t Work

Update: The ban has ended, reports BusinessLine. Brace yourself, there might be an SMS Spam tsunami heading your way.

Update: And here we go again: The Bulk SMS ban has been extended till October 4th.

Update:: The Bulk SMS ban has been extended for another day, that is, for October 1st 2010 as well. Imagine all that SMS SPAM piled up: it’s going to hit you soon.

I have received a few spam messages, these last few otherwise-tranquil days, but not too many. You?

Update: The Ayodhya verdict has been postponed till September 28th. Rediff reports that the order has been extended till September 30th (thanks Vikram). (Press Release)

Update: According to the Hindu, “For individuals, bulk SMS would be above 10 per day, while for companies it could be 100 or more.”

We’re not sure if this information is correct. I was able to send 11 SMS earlier today. We now have a copy of the DoT notification to telecom operators – download it here (pdf). There’s no mention of peer-to-peer (P2P) SMS being restricted.

Earlier: The Indian government has issued a ban on Bulk SMS and MMS services for the next 72 hours; it’s not about providing relief from SMS Spam, but about preventing a widespread panic and mob uprising given the impending verdict on the Babri Masjid land issue in Ayodhya, from the Allahabad High Court. There is fear that, given the unregulated nature of SMS and the widespread use of mobile phones in India, panic could be spread.

However, they haven’t taken into account two factors:
– SMS’ can be viral: messages have, in the past, spread from person to person across the country. It isn’t necessary that such SMS are always sent out as Bulk SMS from telecom service provider (which, incidentally, would make it easier to identify the source of the messages).
– Modem Farms: you might have noticed that at times, you get SPAM SMS’ from specific mobile numbers; for example, on 21st of September, I got a message from +918087674039, for 3 Star Hotels in Goa. At times, then the throughput requirement is not very high, or if the cost of peer-to-peer SMS is lower than Bulk SMS, modem farms are set up, wherein you just buy SIM cards, put them in modems, and fire away, paying regular SMS charges.

Banning Bulk SMS can contain mass messaging (the alternatives above cost more, have lower throughput), but can’t stop it.

Press Release from the Indian Government

Bulk SMS & MMS Messages Banned for Next 72 Hours

Ministry of Communications & Information Technology has today issued orders in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs to all Mobile Telecom Services Providers in the country for banning all bulk SMS & all bulk MMS Messages in all service areas with immediate effect for next 72 hours.

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