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  • Writer's pictureChambers & Partners

Technology, Media and Telecommunications 2021 Review


Vibrant image depicting insights published by AnantLaw on Technology, Media, data protection, data privacy and telecommunications law

AnantLaw shares key insights on Technology, Media, and Telecommunications, data protection, data privacy laws in India. These insights were published by Chambers, in their Global Practice Guide on TMT 2021


 

The Internet Shutdown Case

The year 2020 was unprecedented in many ways. Although the issues involved and the judgment thereon in the case of Anuradha Bhasin v Union of India, in relation to the internet shutdown in Kashmir (Internet Shutdown Case), have continued to remain a landmark in Indian TMT case law since January 2020, the global pandemic (COVID-19) has allowed the magnitude of the socio-economic legal rights tied to the issue tested in the Internet Shutdown Case to be appreciated more almost a year from the judgment. The Supreme Court of India on 10 January 2020, in its judgment on the issue of the imposition of internet (and telecom) shut-down orders under, inter-alia, the Telecom Suspension Rules, 2017 in the Internet Shutdown Case held that broad suspension/blocking/prohibition in perpetuity, being drastic in nature, must be considered by the state only if “necessary” and “unavoidable”, and mandated adherence to the “principle of proportionality” when any curtailment of fundamental rights is resorted to by the state.


 

COVID-19 and Its Effect on the TMT Sector

The COVID 19 pandemic has coerced people (naturally social creatures) to live, socialise and entertain in “isolation” and that became the catalyst for most trends and developments in the telecommunications, media and technology sector in 2020–21; around the globe and definitely in India. Digital growth, integration, investment and development all grew and there was a surge in television and content viewership by almost 43% in the first week of (nationwide) lockdown in India (ie, immediately after 21 March 2020). The day-to-day use of technology also changed. Whether it was the judicial-legal system in India; pharma and healthcare; education (schools and universities); or the banking, financial and payment systems – there were online applications introduced and improvised (almost on an hourly basis) to support as many everyday functions as possible. Over-the-top (OTT) television subscriptions grew by 47% and OTT advertising revenue by 24%. As per leading Indian newspapers, by July 2020 – between the period of the first lockdown and the fifth lockdown in India – every major e-sports portal reported a surge of 80-100%. The digital entertainment sector is expected to continue growing in double digits through 2021 (with impressive growth of 26% in 2020) and the spend on digital media advertising in the year 2021 shall be more than on traditional television.


India is world’s second-largest telecommunications market with tele-density at 86.23%, as of 31 August 2020, and as per the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) average wireless usage per wireless data subscriber being 11 GB in financial year 2020–21. The telecommunications sector, especially Jio Platforms Ltd., remained particularly agile during 2020, with several back-to-back stake-sales and continuous fundraising across several global investors and multinational companies, including Facebook and Google.


Technology and telecom companies played a significant role in the delivery of services ranging from healthcare and education sector services to digital payments for online shopping, etc. This also opened doors and avenues for several start-ups, especially those focused on e-learning, education, basic utilities, COVID 19-related medical utilities, etc. However, this also brought to the forefront the digital divide in India; and an opportunity for the government to introduce laws/policies to bridge the same.


The government of India is now pushing for “Atma-nirbhar Bharat” (ie, a self-reliant and self-sufficient India). It may not be wrong to say that many policy decisions of the government of India will be based on Atma-nirbhar Bharat. The government, in its Union Budget for the financial year 2021–2022 has strongly pushed for the growth of domestic innovation and production capabilities. The auction of the spectrum for 5G services, which is likely to commence on 1 March 2021, has been planned with the ambition to give opportunities to companies having their manufacturing and R&D facilities in India. It is also anticipated that roll-out of 5G services in 2021 will bring about a revolution in the delivery of services and products.


The government of India has also not been oblivious to the difficulties and demands of companies operating in the TMT sector in India. Some of the key policy changes and events are highlighted in the full chapter available for download from the link below.


Chamber Global Practice Guide 2021 India
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