The Telecommunications Act 2023: a quick review

The Telecommunications Act 2023 has come into effect from June 26 replacing the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 and the Indian Wireless Telegraph Act of 1933. This act has been enacted to keep pace with the emerging technologies. Several other countries including the US, UK and Singapore etc. have also updated their regulations to deal with the changing scenario.

During the drafting process, DoT sought suggestions and consulted several entities including 60 ministries, several telcos and numerous ISPs and other bodies. The bill got assent from the President in December 2023 and become the Telecommunication Act 2023.

Some key points of this new act are:
1. The new act introduces a more structured and transparent process for assigning spectrum to telecom companies. The act aims to ensure that telecom services can operate more effectively, potentially improving network quality and reducing congestion.

2. Previously, telecom service providers and users had to navigate through multiple sets of rules, which could be confusing and inefficient. By consolidating these laws into a single framework, the regulations become clearer and easier to understand for everyone involved.

3. The Act expands the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), renamed as Digital Bharat Nidhi in the new Telecom Bill, to support services in underserved rural, remote, and urban areas. It will also fund research and development of new telecom services and technologies, ensuring that even the most underserved areas have access to essential telecom services.

4. Provisions to take necessary measures for national security and public safety. The government now has more power to take temporary possession of telecom services or networks during public emergencies, including natural disasters. This can be for security, public order or to prevent crimes. The Act highlights how important telecom is for empowering people but also acknowledges it can be misused. To protect users, it includes rules against unwanted commercial messages and sets up a system for handling complaints. It also provides a framework for blocking and interception.

5. Right of Way pertains to the legal right to pass through or use land or infrastructure owned by others, including public and private property. In the context of telecom, RoW is critical for deploying network infrastructure like cables, towers, and equipment quickly. With streamlined RoW procedures, telecom companies can deploy infrastructure more quickly and efficiently, thereby enhancing network capacity and extending service coverage to more areas.

6. The Act envisions the creation of a live testing environment where new products, services, processes and business models may be deployed, on a limited set of users, for a specified period of time, with certain relaxations.

7. The Act also allows individuals to have a maximum of nine SIM cards in their name. The limit is being reduced to six for residents of Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast. Using more SIM cards will invite Rs. 50,000 for a first-time offence, and Rs. 2 lakh fine for subsequent violations.
Fraudulently obtaining a SIM card, and using someone else's identification documents, has a penalty of up to three years imprisonment, a fine of up to Rs. 50 lakh, or both.

8. However, as the satellite spectrum has no national territorial limits and is international in character. It is therefore coordinated and managed by the UN agency, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Let us hope for a robust and forward-looking telecommunications framework for India.

Powered by AIGETOA CTD ;   Contact Us: aigetoakolkata@gmail.com
Address: 5th floor Telephone Bhavan,34 BBD Bag,Kolkata