Telecommunication is a key driver of socio-economic development. It specifies
that telecommunication infrastructure and telecommunication network are
important parts of public infrastructure. It emphasizes the need to ensure
availability of affordable, reliable, secure and universal telecommunication
Indian Constitution itself provide the scheme for the realisation of the
socio-economic agenda. Article 38 and 39 of the Indian Constitution enjoins upon
the State to strive to promote the welfare of the people by securing a social
order, minimize inequalities in income, status, facilities and opportunities not
only amongst individuals but amongst groups of people and also directs the State
inter-alia to secure to the citizens the right to adequate means of livelihood;
that the ownership and control of material resources of the community are so
distributed as best to subserve the common good etc.;
India is the world's second largest telecommunication eco-system with more than
117 crores subscribers and contributes 8% of country's GDP. With the significant
development and substantial changes in the telecommunication sector there was a
need of an enactment that provide solution to the difficulties which may arise
in near future with the evolution of telecommunication regulation in other
The present Bill provides for the Recognition and acknowledgement of the need
for a new telecommunication legal framework; Updating the nomenclature and
definitions of relevant terms in the telecommunication legal framework; Need for
legal certainty regarding spectrum management including issues relating to the
use, allocation, and assignment, based on the underlying principle that spectrum
is a natural resource and can be assigned in manner that serves the common good;
Alignment of telecommunication standards with international standards;
Importance of cybersecurity, national security and public safety concerns, while
ensuring constitutional and procedural safeguards; Need for a distinctive
insolvency framework that allows continuity of provision of telecommunication
Department of Telecommunication (DoT) Ministry of Communications on 21st
September, 2022 has released the Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022. The
present bill is proposing to repeal the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian
Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act,
1950 and also provides that all the rules, guidelines and administrative orders
made under these enactments and which are not inconsistent with the present bill
shall be deemed to be made under this Act.
The Bill consists of 53 sections arrayed in 12 chapters and 5 schedules. Some of
the important provisions which are provided in the Bill are the provisions
related to Licensing, Registration, Authorization and Assignment; Provisions
related to Restructuring, Defaults in Payment and Insolvency; Provisions dealing
with Standards, Public Safety and National Security; Provisions related to
Telecommunication Development Fund; Provisions dealing with Innovation and
Technology Development and the provisions which provides for offences under the
Important Definitions under the Bill
" of a radio frequency or radio frequency channel
It means the authorization for a radio station to use a radio frequency or radio
frequency channel under specified conditions, and the term "assignee" means any
entity granted such authorization under sub-section (2) of Section 5.
It means a telecommunication service intended to be received by the general
public either directly or indirectly.
Entity means a person, association of persons, firm, company or cooperative
society, by whatsoever name called or referred to and engaged or intending to be
engaged in providing telecommunication services, telecommunication network or
telecommunication infrastructure, or using the spectrum or operating an earth
License means a license, approval, authorization, permission by whatever name
called, granted under this Act for providing: (a) telecommunication services
(including only such broadcasting services as specified under sub-clause (c)
below); (b) telecommunication network; and (c) broadcasting services in Schedule
2 and any other broadcasting services as may be notified by the Central
Government as requiring a license;
Message means any sign, signal, writing, image, sound, video, data stream or
intelligence or information intended for telecommunication.
It means National Frequency Allocation Plan issued from time to time, by the
Central Government to provide guidance for the use of the spectrum.
Spectrum means the range of frequencies of radio waves.
Telecommunication means a transmission, emission or reception of any messages,
by wire, radio, optical or other electro-magnetic systems, whether or not such
messages have been subjected to rearrangement, computation or other processes by
any means in the course of their transmission, emission or reception.
Telecommunication equipment 
It means any equipment, appliance, instrument, device, material or apparatus,
including customer equipment, that can be or is being used for
telecommunication, and includes software integral to such telecommunication
Telecommunication infrastructure 
It means the infrastructure used or capable of being used for the purpose of
telecommunication, as listed in Schedule 5.
Telecommunication network 
It means a system or series of systems of telecommunication equipment, or
telecommunication infrastructure, or both, including terrestrial or satellite
networks or submarine networks, or a combination of such networks, used or
intended to be used for providing telecommunication services, but shall not
include customer equipment.
Telecommunication services 
It means service of any description (including broadcasting services, electronic
mail, voice mail, voice, video and data communication services, audiotex
services, videotex services, fixed and mobile services, internet and broadband
services, satellite based communication services, internet based communication
services, in-flight and maritime connectivity services, interpersonal
communications services, machine to machine communication services, over-the-top
(OTT) communication services) which is made available to users by
telecommunication, and includes any other service that the Central Government
may notify to be telecommunication services.
It means any telecommunication without the use of wires, including optical
fiber, continuous electrical conductors, or similar modes, between the
transmitting and the receiving apparatus.
Licensing, Registration, Authorization and Assignment for providing Telecom
Chapter-III of the Bill specifically deals with the licensing, registration,
authorization and assignment of providing telecom services. Section 3 provides
exclusive privilege to central government for provide telecommunication
services; and to establish, operate, maintain and expand telecommunication
network and telecommunication infrastructure; and use, allocate and assign
This privilege may be delegated by central government to any other entity
through license, authorization, registration or assignment on such terms and
conditions, including payment of entry fees, license fees, registration fees or
any other fees or charges by whatever name called, as may be prescribed. In case
of the breach of terms and conditions of a license, registration, authorization
or assignment granted, Central Government should be able to impose penalties and
undertake punitive actions such as suspension, revocation, curtailment of the
duration of the license, imposition of financial penalties, giving directions to
the entity, etc.
Section 5 empowers the central government to assign the spectrum which will best
serve the common good and ensure wide-spread access to telecommunication
services, and may notify a National Frequency Allocation Plan (NFAP) for the use
and allocation of spectrum and Central Government may assign spectrum for
telecommunication through auction, administrative process for governmental
functions or purposes in view of public interest or necessity as provided in
Schedule 1; or in any other manner.
Restructuring, Defaults in Payment and Insolvency
The Bill seeks to simplify the framework for mergers, demergers and
acquisitions, or other forms of restructuring, by only requiring intimation to
the licensing authority.
Chapter V of the bill dealt with the provisions regarding Restructuring,
Defaults in Payment and Insolvency. Section 19 of the bill requires the entity
undertaking merger, demerger, acquisition, or other forms of restructuring, to
give notice to central government of the same and to comply with the terms and
conditions, including fees and charges subject to provisions of applicable law.
Section 20 of the bill provides that provisions of chapter V shall apply to the
insolvency, bankruptcy and winding up of licensees or assignees, to achieve the
larger public interest so that telecommunications services in India would remain
available by ensuring efficient use of assigned spectrum.
A licensee, or assignee that becomes subject to any insolvency proceedings may
continue to operate under the terms and conditions specified under such license
or assignment, if such licensee, or assignee meets the conditions specified in
section 20(2) cumulatively and in case of default to comply with the conditions,
then the spectrum, if any, assigned to such entity shall revert to the control
of the Central Government, and the Central Government may take such further
Section 22 of the bill gives power to central government to waive in part or
full any fee, charges, interest, additional charges or penalty or damages
payable by a licensee, registered entity, assignee or a class thereof; or grant
exceptions from the provisions of this Act or rules to a licensee, registered
entity, assignee or a class thereof in interest of consumers, ensuring
competition, reliability and continued supply of telecommunication services, or
availability of telecommunication network or telecommunication infrastructure in
India or any part of India, or any circumstance of public interest or national
security, by notification.
Precisely, any licensee or registered entity will simply be required to comply
with the scheme for restructuring as provided under the Companies Act, 2013, and
inform the Department of Telecommunications, as required.
The entity that emerges pursuant to such restructuring, would need to comply
with the terms and conditions, including fees and charges, applicable to the
licensee or registered entity.
Standards, Public Safety and National Security
Chapter-VI of the bill provides for provisions regarding Standards, Public
Safety and National Security. Section 23 grants power to central government to
prescribe standards telecommunication equipment, telecommunication services,
telecommunication network and telecommunication infrastructure etc.
Section 24 deals with powers of central government or state government or any
other authorized officer which may be exercised by them in case of public
emergency or in the interest of the public safety in the interest of the
sovereignty, integrity or security of India, friendly relations with foreign
states, public order, or preventing incitement to an offence.
Telecommunication Development Fund
The Universal Service Obligation Fund ("USOF") was established under the
Telegraph Act, to meet the "universal service obligation" which was to provide
telegraph access to people in rural and remote areas at affordable and
reasonable prices and the Universal Service Obligation Fund created under the
Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, shall, from the appointed date, be referred to as
the "Telecommunication Development Fund", which shall be under the control of
the Central Government, and shall discharge functions as set forth in this
The sums of money received towards the Telecommunication Development Fund, shall
first be credited to the Consolidated Fund of India, which shall be appropriated
by the Central Government to the Telecommunication Development Fund from time to
time for being utilized to meet the objectives mentioned in section 29 of the
"Regulatory Sandbox" shall mean a framework of special terms and conditions of a
license, registration, authorization or assignment that allows persons to
conduct live testing of products and services in a controlled environment under
the supervision of the Central Government. The Central Government may, for the
purpose of encouraging and facilitating innovation and technological development
in telecommunication, create a Regulatory Sandbox in a prescribed manner.
Protection of Users
Chapter-IX of the bill provides for the protection measures and policies that
will be undertake by the central government for protection of the users from
specified messages. Such measures may include the prior consent of users for
receiving certain messages or class of messages; or preparation and maintenance
of one or more registers, to be called as "Do Not Disturb" register, to ensure
that users do not receive specified messages without prior consent; or mechanism
to enable users to report specified messages received in contravention of
provisions of the bill.
Bill itself provides for the meaning of specified messages as any message
offering, advertising or promoting goods, services, interest in property,
business opportunity, employment opportunity or investment opportunity, whether
or not the goods, services, interest, or opportunity are real or fictitious; or
it is lawful to acquire such goods, services, property, interest or take up the
Duty of users
Rights and duties go hand in hand. If duties are done, then rights get
automatically implemented. Our Constitution also recognizes both rights and
duties. In today's world, telecommunication offers possibilities that were
unknown to mankind. From connecting families to creating newer economic
opportunities, the potential is limitless. Therefore, it is a civic duty of
every individual to use telecommunication responsibly.
Section 34 of the bill imposes duty on the users to not furnish any false
particulars, suppress any material information or impersonate another person
while establishing identity for availing telecommunication services and such
duties are imposed for the interest of the sovereignty, integrity or security of
India, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, or preventing
incitement to an offence.
Provisions with respect to offences under the Bill
The Bill consolidates and updates the various provisions on penalties and
offences under the existing law. Taking into consideration the developments in
criminology and penal jurisprudence. However, the Bill has kept the penalty of
imprisonment or heavy fines only for a small set of critical offences.
For most of the offences, the Bill specifies fines, and also provides for
compounding the same. The decriminalization of certain offences by removing
imprisonment, and levying only fines, as well as compounding of multiple
offences, will help in development of telecom ecosystem.
According to section 47 any person or entity committing any offence listed in
Schedule 3 of the bill shall be punished with fine or imprisonment, or through
suspension of telecommunication service, or through a combination thereof, as
specified in Schedule 3. The provisions of Schedule 3 shall apply to the
abetment of, or attempt to commit, an offence as they apply to the offence.
All the offences committed under this bill shall be bailable, and shall be
cognizable or non-cognizable as provided under Schedule 3. Court shall not take
cognizance of any non-cognizable offence punishable under this Act or the rules
or regulations, save on a complaint made by the Central Government or the
competent authority as may be notified by the Central Government in this regard.
Chief Metropolitan Magistrate or a Chief Judicial Magistrate of first class
shall have the jurisdiction to try any offence punishable under this bill.
Compounding of the Offences
According to Section 49, Offences as specified to be compoundable in Schedule 3
of the bill, may be compounded either before or after the institution of any
prosecution. Compounding of such offences shall be in accordance with the
procedure and on payment by the person committing the offence, of such sum, as
prescribed by the Central Government.
In the case of an offence punishable with fine only, no such sum shall exceed
one hundred and fifty percent of the maximum amount of fine which may be imposed
for that offence. Where an offence is compoundable under this Section, the
abetment of such offence or an attempt to commit such offence is also
compoundable and compounded in same manner.
Author's View point
The Indian Telecommunications Bill, 2022, is a bold and positive and much needed
step towards Atmanirbhar Bharat in the telecom industry. However, various
aspects in the bill are not very clear and vague for instance the terms like
'public safety', 'emergency' are not defined in the bill and therefore needs
more clarity so as to ensure better execution and implementation of the
provisions of the bill.
Since the bill has given wide range of powers to the central government, the
bill also lacks provision regarding the judicial review or intervention for
overseeing the actions of the government in case these powers are exercised by
the government arbitrarily or evasively. So, it is of the view that government
will consider all the shortcomings which may come to their notice during the
current period of public consultation and will try to resolve the same in the
final bill for laying before parliament.
- The Telecommunication Bill, 2022, ss. 52, 53.
- The Telecommunication Bill, 2022, s. 2(3).
- The Telecommunication Bill, 2022, s. 2(4).
- The Telecommunication Bill, 2022, s. 2(6).
- The Telecommunication Bill, 2022, s. 2(7).
- The Telecommunication Bill, 2022, s. 2(9).
- The Telecommunication Bill, 2022, s. 2(10).
- The Telecommunication Bill, 2022, s. 2(15).
- The Telecommunication Bill, 2022, s. 2(17).
- The Telecommunication Bill, 2022, s. 2(18).
- The Telecommunication Bill, 2022, s. 2(19).
- The Telecommunication Bill, 2022, s. 2(20).
- The Telecommunication Bill, 2022, s. 2(21).
- The Telecommunication Bill, 2022, s. 2(24).
- The Telecommunication Bill, 2022, s. 27.
- Section 32