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TRAI Relaxes 100 SMS Per Day Restriction For E-Tickets, Social Networks, Directories, DTH & More

In what is clearly going to be seen as a relief for some businesses, and probably prevent some of them from going to court against its SMS Spam regulations, the telecom regulator TRAI has decided to exclude the following categories from the 100 SMS per day limit:

(i) Dealers of the Telecom Service Providers and DTH Operators for sending request for electronic recharge on mobile numbers;
(ii) e-ticketing agencies for responding to e-ticketing request made by its customers;
(iii) The social networking sites – Facebook, Twitter, Orkut, LinkedIn and GooglePlus to its members pertaining to activities relating to their accounts based on their verifiable options;
(iv) Agencies providing directory services – Justdial, Zatse, Callezee, Getit and Askme.

It appears that these are being seen as transaction messages. Download the directive here.

Our Take

– On Social Networking Sites: The inclusion of social networking sites is a curious one. How does one define a social networking site? For example, a group messaging site like SMS GupShup clearly isn’t one, and neither is the MyToday set of services from Netcore, because these are one-to-many communications, not one to one, and individuals are not connected to each other. It eventually depends on how telecom operators interpret the definition of social networks.

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– On Free SMS Sites: sites like Way2SMS and 160by2 can become SMS based mobile networks, and be excluded under the 100 SMS restriction if their communication is restricted to only entities connected to each other on the network. This is surely a lifeline for their business, but the question remains – apart from online advertising, how will they monetize?

Please bear in mind that the regulation specifically mentions a few social networking sites, and if the TRAI’s definition is limited to only these specific sites, then that is unfortunate. The other thing is that the definition of a social networking site is being left to telecom operators, and they can thus choose to favor whichever site they want to allow. This gives them inordinate power, and creates a situation for graft.

– On E-Ticketing: this will come as a relief for cab services and also bus services like RedBus, because information on cabs and buses booked would not have been treated as non-commercial communication.

– On directory services: the update is vague. What is classified as a commercial communication, and what is a non-commercial communication here?

Still, there are issues with the restrictions:

– Correct me if I’m wrong, but, the 100 SMS limit per day per SIM will still apply to IT businesses wherein critical uptime and downtime alerts are sent to customers.

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– 100 SMS per day per SIM limit on consumers: I think the TRAI’s earlier plan to limit special tariff vouchers was a better one – why restrict the consumers freedom to send SMS. If you’re willing pay extra to send individual messages – why not?

Market dynamics, and a few telecom operators let this situation get out of hand – this could have been addressed by increasing the cost of messaging, instead of creating rules that are open to interpretation and misinterpretation.

That said, today has been a SPAM free day – one of the few in months – and for that, I am glad.

Written By

Founder @ MediaNama. TED Fellow. Asia21 Fellow @ Asia Society. Co-founder SaveTheInternet.in and Internet Freedom Foundation. Advisory board @ CyberBRICS

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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