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The draft Indian Telecommunication Bill 2022: A step in the right direction?

21 Oct 2022

The Department of Telecommunications has issued the long overdue draft Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022 to replace the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950. While the bill is a step in the right direction as it proposes a graded regulatory regime for services, infrastructure, equipment, and spectrum, aligned with the global approach, it inadvertently causes confusion with its expansive scope, which is likely to have implications on technologies.
Partner: Rahul Matthan, Nikhil Narendran and Jyotsna Jayaram, Counsel: Jishnu Sanyal, Senior Associates: Puja Saha, Thomas J. Vallianeth, Associates: Krati Hashwani, Kuruvila Jacob and Sanjeev Jothi


On 21 September 2022, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) published the draft Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022 (Draft Bill) to replace the archaic and dated regulatory framework governing telecommunication in India, including the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 (Telegraph Act), the Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950. The Draft Bill aims to consolidate and amend the existing laws governing the provision, development, expansion, and operation of telecommunication services, telecommunication networks and telecommunication infrastructure, and the assignment of spectrum. The Draft Bill has been formulated pursuant to the consultation paper issued by the DoT on the ‘Need for a new legal framework governing Telecommunication in India’ in July 2022. It also aligns with the National Digital Communications Policy, 2018, which sought to amend the dated telegraph-centric laws to facilitate convergence between information technology (IT), telecommunication, and broadcasting. The Draft Bill is open for public consultation and feedback till 30 October 2022.

The Indian Government, through this proposed framework, intends to implement reforms in the telecommunication sector that will introduce a new framework for (among others):

  • licenses for providing telecommunication services and establishing telecommunication networks;
  • mergers and acquisitions in the sector;
  • allocation of spectrum; and
  • insolvency and bankruptcy of licensees.

Exclusive privilege and applicability

The Draft Bill recognises the exclusive privilege of the central government in relation to telecommunication services, telecommunication network, telecommunication infrastructure and spectrum. It broadens the scope of the privilege that currently exists under Section 4 of the Telegraph Act, which is limited to establishing, maintaining, and working telegraphs.

The proposed framework intends to set up a new licensing regime for:

  • providing telecommunication services;
  • establishing, operating, maintaining, and expanding telecommunication network;
  • providing telecommunication infrastructure;
  • the possession of wireless equipment; and
  • using, allocating and assigning the spectrum.
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