Many of India’s 1.13 billion mobile customers affected by Aadhaar compliance court ruling.

India’s mobile operators face a hefty bill over the next 12 months in order to comply with a recent government order to verify the identity of their customers, according to local press reports that put the total bill at in excess of €140 million.

India’s longest established operators will be hardest hit, while recent market entrant Reliance Jio Infocomm is unlikely to feel the pinch since most of its customers were added after the country introduced its Aadhaar biometric identification system last summer, the Economic Times reported late last week.

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on Thursday instructed Indian telcos to advise their customers through print and electronic advertising as well as SMS that they will be required to take part in a re-verification exercise, the paper said.

The DoT’s instruction comes in the wake of a Supreme Court order in early February that requires mobile users to be re-verified under the Aadhaar scheme. Aadhaar, which works by issuing an identity card with a 12-digit code to Indian citizens, came into force in July last year. In short, the re-verification process will see customers contacted by SMS to ensure that each SIM is in the hands of the person it is registered to, and will mean that only mobile users with Aadhaar cards will be able to possess a mobile number.

Since the process will affect the majority of India’s mobile customers – there were 1.13 billion of them at the end of last year, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) – it will be a costly affair.

According to industry body the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), it could cost upwards of 10 billion rupees (€141 million), factoring in training, hardware acquisition and set-up costs, according to the paper.

The bill will be shouldered by those with the largest and longest-established customer bases.

The TRAI’s year-end numbers show that Bharti Airtel remains India’s biggest mobile operators with 265.85 million customers and a 23.6% share of the market, while Vodafone comes in second with 204.69 million/18.2% and Idea Cellular in third with 190.52 million/16.9%.

Market disruptor Reliance Jio Infocomm, which had amassed 72.16 million customers and a 6.4% market share by end-2016, will be largely unaffected, the Economic Times noted, since most of its customers were signed up under the Aadhaar scheme.

The telcos have until 6 February 2018 to comply with the court order.