An Aadhaar ID holder will have to provide a “local reference” address, name, and contact number in case he/she is purchasing a SIM card outside his/her home circle, the DoT said in a new directive to all telecom companies. For e.g. an Aadhaar holder from Bangalore (circle) might settle in Mumbai (circle) and while purchasing a new SIM, he/she will have to provide contact no, name and address of a person from Mumbai (circle). This is required because Aadhaar is only a proof of identity (age, name, gender) and not a proof of address/residence.

The DoT directive adds that a ‘local reference’ is required only for issuance of new SIM cards to “outstation customers i.e. customers who are having Aadhaar issued in other Licensed Service Area (LSAs)”. The outstation customer will first need to provide the local address where he/she wishes to obtain the SIM card, and this is recorded in the digital customer acquisition form (CAF) filed by the sales agent. The CAF will also record address, name and contact of the “local reference” person, prior to eKYC process and issuance of new SIM card, the DoT direction said. Note that the CAF form is paperless and will be filed in digital format into the biometric Point of Sale (PoS) terminal during the e-KYC process.

Prior to issuing SIM card to the customer, the agent must verify customer’s residence by placing a phone call to the “local reference”. “Only after receiving affirmation from local reference, the eKYC process shall be followed” the direction added. The PoS terminal verifies the customer’s identity (name, age, gender) by performing biometric authentication, and this will also be treated as customer’s signature on the CAF form.

Re-verification of outstation customers via Aadhaar

Note that in January, TRAI recommended DoT to implement Aadhaar-based verification for SIM cards. Following these recommendations, DoT made it mandatory for all telecom operators to ensure that their subscribers link mobile numbers to Aadhaar number within a year. In the case of re-verification of an outstation customer via Aadhaar, telecom companies can verify the address  in two ways, as per the new DoT directive:

By regenerating earlier CAF form:  Telcos can re-verify its existing customer by simply regenerating the customer’s earlier CAF form, which will return a home address. This will be treated as completion of re-verification and customers need not provide a local reference.

By means of local reference: But in case, the CAF form fails to return an address or wrong address, telcos can request its existing customer to provide a local reference for re-verification, although he/she will have to submit Aadhaar details as well.

Telcos still accept alternative means for verification of new SIMs

Telecom operators have been sending out SMSes asking their subscribers to link their Aaddhaar with their phone numbers, but some operators do not mention any deadline, as directed by DoT. This points out that although telcos are following the order, they aren’t keen on losing out customers just because they don’t have an Aadhaar. Here is a screenshot of an SMS circulated by Idea Cellular without any mention of deadline:

Also, it is important to note that it is not mandatory to have an Aadhaar to buy a new SIM card. When I last visited a retail agent for a new SIM, customers had an option to provide an ID proof (using PAN Card, passport, college/employee ID) and an address proof (using rental agreement, passport, BPL card, water/electricity bill, bank statement) to verify themselves. This again points out that telecom companies do not want to block new user/SIM addition just because a customer does not hold an Aadhaar.

The new DoT notification does not mention other options/choices the customer has, in case the customer has no contact in the new city. For e.g. students passing out of their colleges can be offered a job in a different city, and he/she might not necessarily have a local contact. Additionally, the DoT notification does not mention who qualifies for the term “local reference”. This only means that there is no obligation of providing Aadhaar for buying SIM cards outside your residence address.