India as the second largest telecom market in the world, has 117 crore telecom subscribers. Telecommunications is an enabler of digital governance, that emphasizes a data driven and people-centric delivery of goods and services. COVID-19 has underlined the criticality of telecommunications, which has emerged as the lifeline for the economy, enabling people to remain connected. A universal, resilient, secure, accessible, and affordable telecommunications is an indispensable requirement for an inclusive India striving towards “antyodaya” - the upliftment of all.

Amidst the emergence of new technologies like 5G, internet of things, artificial intelligence etc. offering opportunities to transform millions of lives, the department of telecommunications (“DoT”) has released a consultation paper on 23 July 2022 on the need for a new legal framework governing telecommunication in India (“Framework”), to address the realities of the 21st century and the stakeholders are required to provide their comments on the proposed Framework by 25 August 2022.


As technology has undergone a colossal change since the Indian Telegraph Act 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act 1950, a new law for the telecom sector, is undoubtedly long overdue. The Framework, outlines a significant overhaul of the extant legal framework governing the telecommunications sector in India, focusing on consolidation of the existing laws and a review of the global best practices.


The proposed Framework outlines overarching policy changes beneficial for the development of the telecommunications sector, which are summarized below:

  • Simplification of the regulatory framework:
    • to ensure regulatory certainty and promotion of investment, while retaining government's exclusive privileges for provisioning of telecommunication services, establishment and maintenance of telecommunication network and infrastructure;
    • no retrospective modification to the detriment of an entity.; and/or
    • to promote investments and a framework for various players in telecom value chain like service providers, infrastructure providers, right of way (“RoW”) providers, etc.
  • Spectrum Management: Spectrum, being a scarce natural resource is to be used in public interest to serve the nation.
    • Spectrum Assignment – Presently, assignment is done through a combination of policies and court orders, going forward the Framework aims to facilitate regulatory clarity with the assignment, serving common good and enabling widespread access of telecommunication services;
    • Spectrum Utilization – to be liberalized in a technologically neutral manner, permitting a spectrum assignee to deploy new technologies, and maintain continuity in existing policy, while ensuring the central government has flexibility for spectrum usage in public interest; and
    • Utilisation of frequency range – to include provisions for re-farming and harmonization of the frequency range, while Central Government may permit spectrum sharing, trading, leasing and surrender of the spectrum assigned, subject to prescribed terms, including payment of fees.
  • RoW: is a pre-requisite to enable expansion of the telecommunication network and improvement of telecommunication services. The RoW Framework shall operate in a uniform, non-discriminatory manner with an effective dispute resolution mechanism, to ensure integrated development of infrastructure by establishing common ducts and cable corridors in infrastructure projects.
  • M&A: Simplification of the existing process for mergers, demergers and acquisitions, or other forms of restructuring to ensure the licensee or the registered entity complies with the restructuring scheme under the Companies Act 2013 and simply informs DoT, as required.
  • Insolvency: Impact of insolvency in the sector to be limited to the minimal extent, so that insolvency proceedings do not lead to suspension or termination of the license / authorization / assignment to the extent:a
    • telecommunication services continue to be provided; and
    • there is no default in payment of dues for the use of telecom license or spectrum.
      Therefore, a balance between continuity of service and safeguarding public interests is to be maintained.
  • Revamp the universal service obligation fund with the telecommunication development fund, to ensure delivery of telecommunication service to the underserved rural and urban areas, increasing research, and development of new technologies, and promotion of employment and training activities. This will provide an impetus for growth of indigenous technology companies.
  • Penalties to be imposed proportionate to the offences.
  • Standards to address public emergency, safety, and national security: Enable the central government to prescribe standards for telecommunication equipment, services, network, and infrastructure, aimed at public safety, given its widespread use, for education, entertainment, tele-medicine, or facilitating e-mandis.


Telecommunications has the potential to unleash and accelerate India's socio-economic transformation, aiding achievement of an “Aatma Nirbhar Bharat”. While revamping and evolution of the existing telecommunications law is a laudable step, to keep pace with the advances in emerging technologies, a few points need to be borne in mind:

  • the existing telecom framework is extremely dissected and therefore, every aspect may not require consolidation (for example, spectrum management). Consolidation will need to be carefully assessed and proceeded with caution, only as required.
  • the interplay of laws like the Companies Act 2013 and the insolvency laws will need to be harmonised in the Framework.

The new consultative paper, designed to enable a future ready framework, deployed against the backdrop of new age technologies, aims to benefit the citizens, by bringing clarity, precision, regulatory certainty, attuned to the changing realities and permits the telecommunication sector to realize its potential with minimal policy disruption.

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