Home / News / India /  Explainer: New Telecom Bill likely in 6-10 months: Here's list of changes it would bring

Communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on 23 September said that the new telecom bill is expected to be in place in 6-10 months but the government is not in a hurry. The Department of Telecommunications has set the deadline of October 20 on the draft bill.

The bill seeks to replace three laws: the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950.

On 22 September, the government had released the draft of the Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022.

Ashwini further added that PM instructed to draft (Telecom) Bill focusing on users' security, both service providers & users should know caller's identity. "Due to technology, distinction between voice and data calls disappeared. So all platforms used to make calls should be brought under same regulation, he said.

Furthermore, the minister said that India is capable of leading the telecom sector. He also stated PM Modi's vision to build 5G parallel to global standards & lead the world in 6G technology.  

“India is capable of leading in the telecom sector. Keeping this in mind the ambit of USOF (Universal Service Obligation Fund) has been expanded. PM has clearly said that we've to build 5G services parallel to global standards & lead the world in 6G technology," he said.

Here are the changes the new Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022 would bring: 

- As per Telecom Minister, the new bill will provide legal backing to Right of Way actions, providing an enabling framework for reducing timelines for approvals and mooting remedies for damage to fibres and towers.

- The framework for mergers and acquisitions will be simplified and relief, write-off or deferment of dues may be allowed in cases of payment default in extraordinary circumstances. 

- OTT, communication apps such as Whatsapp, Signal, Telegram and others that may provide voice or video calling would fall under the ambit of the draft telecom bill but through a light-touch regulation. 

- The government has proposed to broaden the definition of telecommunication services to include OTT communication services, internet-based communication services and broadcasting services among others in the draft telecom bill, which industry watchers said could mean that OTT players would have to take licenses, share revenue with the government and be treated to same rules as telecom service providers.

- The bill also mentions that auction will be the key means for allocation of spectrum but it also provides an enabling framework for assignment of spectrum through administrative process or non-auction methods for radio backhaul spectrum and airwaves for government and public interest sectors such as defence, research and transportation. Airwaves for public sector units BSNL and MTNL have also been included in non-auction allocation. The government will prescribe the frequency range, methodology for pricing, price, fees and charges, payment mechanism, duration and procedure in such cases.

- License needed for telecom services and networks, registration for telecom infrastructure, authorization for wireless equipments & spectrum should only be given through auction except for certain clearly defined govt or public purposes. “The focus is on the effective use of spectrum. It has been given legal backing now. Existing rules & regulations to continue, some significant reforms brought in,"  the telecom minister said. 

- The new Telecom bill also enables a legal framework for preventing harassment of users from unsolicited calls and messages, a move that is set to provide massive relief to millions of mobile phone users that get spam calls or messages on a daily basis.

- The companies will have to comply with the restructuring scheme under the Companies Act and inform the department of telecom. In case of default payment of any amount the government will determine extraordinary circumstances, including financial stress, consumer interest, maintaining competition in the sector, or reliability and continued supply of services to allow full or partial relief, write-off or deferment or conversion of the amount into shares, through a special enabling framework.

- Spectrum bought in previous auctions till the end date while existing spectrum assigned through administrative process will be valid for five years from the day the Bill comes into force or if the expiry of the term period is prior to that date.

- The Bill provides for the right of appeal before the appellate authority. It also creates an enabling provision for the central government to set up an alternate dispute resolution mechanism such as arbitration, mediation or other process of dispute resolution.

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