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The government plans to simplify and update the archaic laws that govern telecom services in India before the launch of 5G to allow, for instance, communication between connected devices to spur growth in the digital economy, a top official said.

The department of telecommunications (DoT) has proposed replacing the outdated provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act and the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, which came into effect in 1885 and 1933, respectively, with rules that embody the current reality and evolving communication trends.

“We have engaged the National Law University (NLU), Delhi, to study the Acts and suggest changes and amendments that are necessary due to passage of time and advent of new technologies," said Anshu Prakash, secretary, DoT.

NLU will work out the contours of a draft legislation that will include machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and internet of things (IoT), among others, which are key elements of 5G technology.

NLU has been given four months to prepare the draft, after consultation with various stakeholders, following which it will provide suggestions to the telecom department.

“The mandate will include easy regulation, promoting innovation and proliferation of technologies, decriminalization of actions considered to be offences. Most importantly, the new legislation will require provisions that relate to M2M communication and IoT".

“The current legislation regulates the interface of persons with each other and with machines. However, for interfaces between a machine and machine, there are gaps," he added.

While the next-generation, or 5G, wireless technology is set to make downloads and video streaming lightning-fast, its real potential lies in letting electronic gadgets talk to each other, creating a mesh of connected devices called the IoT. The technology will make driverless cars and automated factory lines, among other things, commonplace.

The overhaul of the telecom laws is required to support Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mission of Digital India. A team at NLU, headed by vice-chancellor Srikrishna Deva Rao, will work on the draft legislation and will be advised by academics from technical and economic backgrounds.

To enable the smooth implementation of 5G and allow more companies to be part of India’s digital ecosystem, the team has identified issues such as net neutrality, traffic management of differential pricing (especially in the context of IoT) and consumer rights relating to which changes will be suggested in the existing laws.

The team of academics is also working on draft laws for telecom infrastructure and right of way (RoW) rules for network development. Other issues such as spectrum allocation, network and other security requirements, including vendor management, authentication for access to sensitive information and systems, and product suppliers may also see legislative changes.

The team will hold a consultation meeting in the next two weeks with civil society organizations, consumer groups, industry associations and legal experts. Following the meeting, a draft paper will be published to seek comments from the general public.

The team will also study international laws to suggest changes to the existing legislation, the official said.

The team has been asked to “take a comparative approach while contextualizing it to suit Indian needs and requirements. The new Act will be futuristic and focus on the needs of stakeholders, including end-users", the official said.

The government has also asked the NLU team to suggest clauses in the existing legislation that are unnecessary and add to the compliance burden.

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