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Part 6: Technology, Media and Telecommunications Review

This is Part 6 of a 7 part series on Technology, Media and Telecommunications Review. It was authored by AnantLaw and published by Law Business Research Limited in December 2022.

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Part 6: The year in review

The reforms in the telecom sector were the main aim of the government throughout the year. With the efforts of the private players in the sector, the government is looking to make internet accessible throughout the country. The current development in the TMT sector in general and the telecom sector in particular is gradual growth with selective privatisation and managed competition.

The loss faced by the country during the pandemic appears to be recovered now, considering the gross revenue in the telecom sector of the first quarter of FY22 was 648.01 billion rupees. Market surveys also indicate that with an annual growth of 11 per cent between 2020 and 2023, India is expected to become the fastest-growing telecom advertisement market.

Moreover, the following are some government policy initiatives in the sector:

  • The Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme provides for financial incentives to boost manufacturing in India and, thereby, intends to attract investments in all the

  • The Prime Minister Wi-Fi Access Network Interface (PM WANI) service offering public

  • The Bharat Net Project launched to provide broadband connectivity at India’s gram

  • The DoT launched the Tarang Sanchar portal for sharing information on mobile tower

Further, in the first quarter of FY22, the TMT sector claimed six of the top 10 mergers and acquisitions in the country. Some of them are as follows:

  • Reliance Industries took a 54 per cent stake in Addverb Technologies, which is an

  • HCL Technologies have acquired a 51 per cent stake in Gesellschaft fr Banksysteme

  • Infosys has acquired a German-based digital marketing agency for €50 million

  • Tech Mahindra acquired a Mumbai-based start-up, Thirdware, which offers packaged solutions in areas like robotics, enterprise resource planning and enterprise performance management in a deal worth US$42 million and 80 per cent stakes in Geomatic. AI, which works for AI-based solutions, digital twins and drone technologies for A$6 million

  • In April 2022, TRAI issued a Consultation Paper on Issues Relating to Media Ownership85 on a reference by the MIB, wherein they discussed the issue of media ownership and control, cross-media ownership, vertical integration in the sector, current regime and asked for stakeholder’s suggestions on solutions for issues

In May 2022, TRAI published a Consultation Paper on Issues related to the New Regulatory Framework for Broadcasting and Cable services, in which they discussed the New Regulatory Framework, 2020 and the Tariff Order 2.0. Further, news articles also suggest that TRAI is planning to amend broadcast tariff guidelines after the logging of the New Tariff Order 2.0.

In July, 2022, TRAI issued another Consultation paper on Renewal of Multi-System Operators (MSOs) Registration on the provisions for continuance of service by MSOs to consumers even after expiry of the previous registration when a final decision on its application for renewal is awaited, and Consultation Paper on Rationalization of Entry Fee and Bank Guarantees, wherein TRAI was looking for stakeholders’ consultation on two issues, namely, uniformly levying entry fees in every service area under different unified licences, and merger of performance bank guarantee and financial bank guarantee into one single bank guarantee.

Moreover, for a country like India, which is the largest democracy and one in which the Supreme Court has declared right to privacy as a fundamental right, it is discouraging that we do not have a sound data protection legislation as the Personal Data Protection Bill was withdrawn from the Parliament this year. Where the Prime Minister has been routing for the Digital India campaign for the past five years, the government needs to realise that legislation is necessary for the safety of its citizens in the digitised society. There has been discussion on social media platforms that the reason why this Bill was withdrawn from the Parliament is because of the continuous pressure from Big Tech. The Bill was way too harsh for these Big Techs and, therefore, the government will enact a new law that would be less stringent, limiting the liability of these tech giants.

The 5G spectrum auction was the most talked about event in the sector this year. With three players in the telecom sector, Adani Group’s entry in the sector with its participation in the 5G auction leaves the Vodafone Idea Group apprehensive if prices are brought into play as the Ambani Group and Adani Group would be competing against each other to determine who rules the Digital India campaign. However, the Adani group clarified in a media statement that they do not wish to enter into the consumer mobility market but the spectrum is required to develop its digital platform with super applications, data centres and industrial command and control centres.90 They would also lease their 5G airwaves to other enterprise. Further, the demand for smartphones in India is likely to reach 400 million people by 2026 primarily because of the launch of 5G. 5G would alone contribute up to 80 per cent of the devices by 2026.

On 23 September 2022, the government introduced the Draft Telecommunication Bill, 2022 with an aim to develop a modern and future-ready legislation, as the primary statute currently in place for telecommunication sector is the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885. The explanatory note to the Bill acknowledges the same while also putting forth how the telecommunication technology has evolved with time and that the world has stopped using ‘telegraphs’ a decade ago. The government has examined the laws in other jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore, Australia and the European Union while drafting the Bill.

The proposed Bill seeks to consolidate three legislations, namely, the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 and The Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Protection) Act, 1950. The major changes brought by the Bill are as follows:

(a) The definition of ‘telecommunication services’ is enlarged by including OTT

communication services like Telegram and WhatsApp, satellite-based communication

services, in-flight communication and maritime services, etc. under its ambit.

(b) Provides that the spectrum can be auctioned or assigned through administrative proceedings for government functions or purposes, depending upon the requirements.

(c) Allows sharing, trading, leasing and surrender of the spectrum, subject to

terms and conditions and with the applicable fees or charges.

(d) Ensure effective use of spectrum, the Bill provides that in cases of insolvency

of any entity engaged in spectrum use, the spectrum assigned will revert to the

government’s control.

(e) Proposed to waive charges, fees and penalties of entities, when required

in interest of public and ensure fair competition.

(f) Lays down provision for the central government to impose penalties in cases of

breach of terms and conditions of licence, authorisation and registration along with

framework to provide voluntary undertaking for companies to undertake the breach.

(g) Allows that the person aggrieved by decisions of the central government can

appeal before the appellate tribunal (i.e., TDSAT).

(h) Allows the central government to create an alternate dispute resolution mechanism to resolve disputes that it thinks fit to be referred to the same.

(i) Repurposed the Universal Service Obligation Fund as the Telecommunication Development Fund.

(j) Widened the scope of Right of Way (RoW) for rapid roll-out of newer technologies and removed the limitations by providing and effective framework for the same. The permission required for RoW would now be in an expeditious manner as the rejection of such application is limited in the Bill.

(k) Simplified the procedure for mergers and acquisitions as companies will only have to intimate the licensing authority of such mergers and acquisitions.

(l) Introduced a chapter specifically dealing with public safety and national security, wherein the framework is set to address situations of public emergency, public safety or national security concerns.

(m) Provides for technological development and facilitates innovation by allowing a ‘regulatory sandbox’ to conduct tests for a new telecommunication innovation.

(n) For the protection of the telecom users, the Bill provides for measures for protection of users, as well as the duty of users, in general.

The Bill seems to limit the TRAI’s power to merely a recommendatory body from the sectoral watchdog as the proposed Bill removes the current mandate that the DoT has to seek TRAI’s view before issuing a new licence to a service provider through an amendment in the TRAI Act. Currently, the proposed Bill is under the public domain to receive the stakeholders’ comments.


Full publication with all sections and citations can be downloaded from the link below.

The Technology, Media and Telecommunications Review
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