Tech firms and telecom operators are facing off over steep SMS tariffs, causing one-time passcodes and messages to consumers from abroad to cost several times more than what they cost domestically. In response to a consultation paper by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), telcos argued that there was no need to change the definition of ‘international traffic,’ a key term that determines what an international SMS is, and by extension, what it should cost.
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) painted companies that routed SMS messages through domestic gateways as getting away from “having to pay the international SMS termination charge,” an expensive add-on to SMS tariffs to deliver text messages from abroad.
‘No relation to cost’
The Broadband India Forum, which represents Big Tech firms like Amazon and Google as well as Internet Service Providers, argued that insisting on strict geographical boundaries for SMS was inappropriate when it was possible to
send an SMS message over the Internet to an Indian gateway. “[The] excesses of international SMS pricing have little to nothing to do with cost of providing service,”.
Costly international SMS pricing can also lead to fraud, Mr. Singhal pointed out. Firms that use SMS to verify international users have to pay the telco that ultimately delivers the SMS. After Elon Musk took over the social media platform Twitter, he alleged that telecom operators around the world were defrauding the firm of $60 million a year by creating bot accounts that requested bogus SMS OTPs from Twitter, for which the company had to pay.