The Indian Telecommunications Bill 2023 Salient Features and differences

December 20, 2023

The Indian Telecommunications Bill 2023 did indeed pass the Lok Sabha on December 20th, 2023, just yesterday! Here’s a breakdown of its key features and how it differs from its predecessor

Salient Features:

  • Modernization: Aims to replace and modernize the outdated Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, with a framework suitable for the digital age.
  • Spectrum Allocation: Introduces auction-based spectrum allocation for most entities, while allowing administrative allocation for specific purposes.
  • Network Regulation: Empowers the government to set rules for network protection and security.
  • TRAI Expansion: Brings cable television network providers under the purview of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for better regulation.
  • Universal Service Fund: Rechristens the Universal Service Obligation Fund as “Digital Bharat Nidhi” and expands its scope to include research and development in the telecom sector.
  • Exemptions: Excludes services like email, internet-based communication, broadcasting, machine-to-machine communication, and OTT (over-the-top) communication from the bill’s purview.

Differences from Previous Acts:

  • Scope: Covers a broader range of telecommunications services and technologies compared to the older acts.
  • Spectrum Allocation: Moves away from primarily administrative allocation to a more market-driven auction system for spectrum.
  • Regulatory Framework: Introduces new provisions for network security, data privacy, and interception of communications under specific circumstances.
  • TRAI Jurisdiction: Expands TRAI’s reach to cable television networks, potentially leading to more unified regulation of the sector.
  • Focus on Digital Growth: Recognizes the importance of digital infrastructure and allocates resources for research and development in the telecom domain.

Overall, the new bill aims to create a more flexible, efficient, and secure regulatory environment for the Indian telecommunications sector, while also promoting digital infrastructure development and innovation.

While the bill has been welcomed by some industry players, concerns have been raised about potential government overreach and the impact on privacy and freedom of expression. The bill will now go to the Rajya Sabha for further discussion and approval before becoming law.

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Mr. Nipun Khanna is the founder of this firm- Startup Solicitors LLP