With a population of around 1.4 billion people, India is now the world’s second largest telecommunication ecosystem. The current regulatory framework governing the provision of electronic communication in India dates back from 1885, a time when technology was rudimentary and the telecommunications industry in its nascent stages. As a result, the law had to be interpreted in ways that extended its meaning well beyond what was originally intended. In a bid to adapt to the needs and realities of the 21st century and promote innovation, the Indian Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has drafted the Indian Telecommunications Bill 2022 (Bill).
The Bill consolidates three separate acts that govern the telecommunications sector — Indian Telegraph Act 1885, Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act 1933, and The Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Protection) Act 1950. The Bill provides adequate provisions to avoid any possible disruption and administrative orders under the existing laws will continue until they are superseded by the new law.
To ensure a level playing field and ensure fair competition, one of the key changes is the inclusion of over-the-top communication services in the definition of telecommunication services. The Bill says that OTT companies providing calling and messaging services will be subject to the same licensing regime as any other telecommunications operator. The DoT will remain responsible for governing the telecommunications sector, granting licenses for various telecommunications services and collecting fees.
Except for certain specified functions relating to government and public interest, the Bill provides for assignment of spectrum primarily through auction and establishes an enabling framework for optimal utilization of this scarce resource.
The Bill also states the punitive actions that Central Government of India can take in case of breach of terms and conditions of a license, registration, authorization or assignment granted. However, the Bill proposes to dilute the powers and functions currently vested with the Telecommunications Authority of India, one of the several regulators of the telecommunications sector in the country currently responsible for issuing orders, recommendations, and directions on various telecommunications matters, and transform it into a consultative body.
The Bill is expected to be converted into law in the next six to ten months. The last date for public comment on the draft is October 20. If you are interested in learning more about the new draft regulatory framework in India, contact Chrystel Erotokritou, Compliance Manager, Access Partnership.