The Department of Telecommunications on Monday ordered telecom operators to record the GPS coordinates of bulk subscribers who purchase ten or more connections simultaneously. This is on top of the half-yearly inspection of bulk subscribers required by DoT since 2012. For existing subscribers, the DoT order said, the GPS location has to be captured during these inspections. The order said that these new rules were based on feedback from security agencies.

The department also told telcos to eliminate “gibberish” entries in bulk subscribers’ customer application forms. For subscribers using digital KYC, DoT said, the same alternate number cannot be used for registering a SIM more than nine times.

We have reached out to the Cellular Operators Association of India for comment on the new rules.

Bulk SIM fraud

In 2011, Airtel, Vodafone and Idea were fined Rs 50 crore each for selling bulk connections to Matrix, a company that resells subscriptions to travelers going abroad from India. The Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal later overturned that fine, and told DoT to refund the telcos, with interest. In 2014, the DoT said it would appeal the decision, but it is unclear if they did so.

Adding GPS coordinates to addresses might make it easier for law enforcement agencies to track down rogue subscribers in case the address provided during registration is invalid. It might also help curb spam, if such SIMs are being resold to fraudsters or spammers elsewhere. In December, police in Madhya Pradesh busted a bulk SIM selling racket where over 7,000 SIM cards were registered fraudulently on a bulk basis and resold across the country.