What is the Telecommunications Act, 2023?

  • February 05, 2024
  • Registrationwala
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The nature of telecom, its utilisation and the technology have undergone a significant change since the era of telegraph. Hence, the government of India realised the need of restructuring the legal and regulatory framework for the telecom sector.

 

On 24 December 2023, the Telecommunications Act was passed into law with the intention of repealing Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950. The Act also amends Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act, 1997. The government expects that the new act will consolidate all laws of telecommunication services and most importantly, protect the national sovereignty, and ensure the privacy and security of the citizens of India.

 

Let’s take a look at the history of telecommunications acts in India:

  • The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 was intended to provide the central government the power to establish telegraph lines on private as well as public property.
  • The Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 was enacted to regulate the possession of wireless telegraphy apparatus.
  • According to Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act, 1950, anyone illegally possessing telegraph wires would be punished.
  • Regulatory authorities: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act, 1997, provided for the establishment of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) with the purpose of regulating the telecommunications services and to protect the interests of service providers and consumers of the telecom sector. 

Keys Aspects of the Telecommunications Act, 2023

Mentioned below are the key aspects of the new act:

  • The act aims to streamline what has so far been a complex licencing system in the telecom sector and promotes a simple authorisation mechanism.
  • According to this act, any person intending to provide telecommunications services, or to establish, operate, maintain or expand telecommunication network, or to possess a radio equipment has to seek approval from the Central Government.
  • The act mentions rules for spectrum allocation and provides for a non-auction route for assigning airwaves for satellite-based communication services, such as OneWeb owned by Bharti Airtel.
  • The act brings in a state government led dispute resolution structure, where the district magistrate and the district judge will decide the right of way issues that are related to permits for telecom network roll out. 
  • Under this act, if anybody causes damage to the telecom network, they have to compensate for the damage caused and also incur a fine, which may extend up to Rs 50 lakh.
  • Whoever provides telecommunications services or establishes telecommunication network without authorisation under sub-section (1) of section 3, or causes damage to critical telecommunication infrastructure shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend up to 3 years or with fine which may extend up to 2 crore rupees, or with both.
  • Within the new act, the government of India has brought in acquisition of telecom equipment from a trusted source. This was earlier being governed through National Security Directive on Telecommunication Sector (NSDTS).
  • To be appointed as the TRAI Chairman, the candidate should possess 30 years of professional experience. In order to serve as a member, 25 years of professional experience is mandatory.

Causes of Concern

The Telecommunications Act has raised serious concerns that need to be addressed:

  • It gives the government unbridled control which can violate the privacy of the citizens. 
  • The act can harm the rights and the freedom of the citizens due to the ability to decrypt messages on apps such as Telegram and Whatsapp.
  • There is a lack of clear guidelines on the retention of data and a chance of misuse of biometric identification.

Conclusion

India is, at present, the second largest telecommunications market in the world. Since the previous acts were outdated, introducing a new act became crucial. The Telecommunications Act, 2023 aims to embrace the new age of digitisation and streamline the experience of service providers and consumers of the telecom sector. The act encourages the development of new technologies that will benefit the citizens. 


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