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Telcos concerned about revenue loss due to increase in flash call volume

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In Short:

Missed calls have become an authentication tool on Android phones in India, leading to concerns for telcos about revenue loss and potential fraud. The surge in flash calls is related to the hike in international calling and messaging prices. Flash calls, a third way of verifying phone numbers, do not work on iPhones. Telcos estimate an annual revenue loss of Rs 200 crore due to missed calls not incurring termination charges.

Missed Calls as Authentication Tool Raise Concerns for Telcos

New Delhi: The use of missed calls as a method of signaling by users has been prevalent for a long time. However, recent adoption of missed calls by enterprises as an authentication tool on Android phones has raised concerns among telcos about potential revenue loss and fraud.

Surge in Missed Calls

The volume of missed calls, also known as flash calls, has seen a significant increase since mobile phone operators in India raised international calling and messaging prices by 20% last year. An industry source mentioned that there have been 400 million flash calls in India since the tariff increase, compared to almost none before the hike. Internationally, Juniper Research estimated 60 million flash calls in 2021.

Flash calls have emerged as a third way of verifying an Android phone number, in addition to one-time passwords (OTPs) and voice calls.

Impact on Telcos and Aggregators

Telcos are concerned about a potential revenue loss of nearly Rs 200 crore annually due to missed calls not incurring a termination charge. However, for aggregators, flash calls mean cost savings due to this very reason.

Rajdipkumar Gupta, CEO of Route Mobile, highlighted the price arbitrage in domestic and international SMS/call rates in India, prompting foreign businesses to explore alternative authentication methods. He mentioned the cost savings associated with flash calls compared to traditional OTP messages or authentication calls.

Concerns and Recommendations

Telcos and experts have raised concerns about the misuse potential, fraud risks, network resource consumption, and lack of awareness among users regarding flash calls. Recommendations include setting competitive prices for flash calls or deploying advanced voice firewalls to block them using machine learning algorithms and real-time traffic analysis.

Aniketh Jain, cofounder of Fyno, pointed out the security risks associated with flash calls, especially in sensitive transactions such as banking, where RBI mandates multi-factor authentication through SMS only.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is yet to provide a response, indicating that further study is required to assess the impact of flash calls in detail.

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