On September 22, 2022 the Government released the bill on Indian Telecommunications. Considering telecommunication is a key driver of economic and social development, telecommunication infrastructure and telecommunication network are important parts of public infrastructure, and it is necessary to ensure availability of affordable, reliable, secure and universal telecommunication services. Considering spectrum is a valuable and inexhaustible natural resource most certainly has an element of public good and well being and it is vital to ensure efficient management and use of the spectrum. This bill consolidates and amends the laws governing the following factors –
● Research & Development
● Expansion and Operation of Telecommunication Services
● Telecommunication Networks
● Telecommunication Infrastructure
● Allocation and assigning of Spectrum
This bill widens the scope and extent of the previous legislations as the bill is in congruence with the new technologies and applications. The bill addresses the OTT (Over The Top) platforms and their services and brings them under the ambit of the Indian law. The bill also aims at setting up a National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP) to provide guidance to the allocation and usage of the spectrum. NFAP will be a time flexible plan and will be updated as per the public requirements and convenience while keeping the aspect of National security in consideration. The bills also highlights the definitions of various technical aspect of telecommunication, such as equipment (Wireless and Wired), infrastructure, user, facility provider and wireless communication, thus expanding the extent of the bill massively, which inturn will open the Indian telecommunication sector to new opportunities of innovation and self reliance.
The Bill empowers the Central government to govern three key aspects of telecom – Telecommunication services and networks, Telecommunication equipment and infrastructure & Spectrum.
However the scope of these three pillars of the bill is so wide that it enables the authorities to govern the keen aspects of the telecom industry. The power conferred upon the Central Government is very critical and essential in terms of public well being. In the recent wave of Make in India, we have witnessed a mighty rise in innovations and entrepreneurs all over the country which shows that India is now ready to compete with big layers of the world and further lead the way in terms of innovation in the future.
The bill has brought out a lot of keen aspects for the growth of the telecom market under the legal ambit, thus creating a safe and secure telecom marketplace for the entities whether public or private. The bill focuses upon the following aspects to maximize the usage of the spectrum and the services-
● Licensing, registration, and authorization – The Central Government will set up bodies and authorities to monitor licensing, registration and the authorization of the spectrum
● KYC and caller id requirements – The bill lays down provision to make available the ID of the sender of the message to the receiver of the message.
● Right of way – Legal permission to go into or through another person’s land in regard to telecom services and infrastructure in pursuance of Public good and well being
● Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) – The Central Government will lay down the authority, mechanisms, procedure and the time limit for any grievance through Arbitration, Meditation or any such dispute resolution mechanisms
● Regulatory sandbox – This will allow for the testing of new technology under controlled conditions, thereby bolstering innovation and technology development.
● Offenses and penalties – The bill lays down the various offenses and their penalties which have been classified into the following severities –
|Severe Penalty||Up to Rs 5 Cr|
|Major Penalty||Up to Rs 1 Cr|
|Moderate Penalty||Up to Rs 10 Lakh|
|Minor Penalty||Up to Rs 1 Lakh|
The bill has been tabled at a very crucial time as we step into the digital age we need to secure our digital rights and our cyber space. This landmark piece of legislation will be fundamental in creating a secured and flexible telecom industry. Major Indian telecom operators like Jio, Airtel etc will play a crucial role but the expertise of such corporations coupled with regulations and authorities by the central govt will surely result in fruitful gains and results in the times to come.
Author: Mr. Abhishek Singh, Research Associate, CyberPeace Foundation