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Explained: 10 big ways Telecommunications Bill 2023 will impact mobile users and telecom companies

The Telecom Regulatory and Satellite Communication Bill 2023 aims to enhance national security, curb fraudulent practices, streamline regulatory powers, and promote efficient spectrum allocation.

Explained 10 big ways Telecommunications Bill 2023 will impact mobile users and telecom companies snt
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First Published Dec 22, 2023, 2:55 PM IST

This week, the Indian Parliament successfully passed the Telecommunications Bill of 2023, marking a significant overhaul of the country's telecommunications law, which was originally based on the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885, the Wireless Telegraphy Act of 1933, and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act of 1950. The newly enacted bill establishes clear regulations for spectrum allocation, introducing a non-auction pathway for assigning airwaves dedicated to satellite-based communication services. Notably, the legislation includes robust provisions to combat phone number spoofing and fraud, presenting a comprehensive strategy to address this growing concern.

Furthermore, the Telecommunications Bill of 2023 introduces a "digital-by-design" online grievance redressal mechanism, emphasizing a modern approach to handling and resolving users' complaints. This initiative reflects a commitment to leveraging digital technologies for efficient complaint resolution in the telecommunications sector.

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The bill also demonstrates a concerted effort to tackle the issue of pesky callers by implementing various measures, including stringent checks to prevent the misuse of SIM cards. These measures aim to enhance user experience and security in the telecommunications landscape.

The bill, endorsed by Lok Sabha on Wednesday, received approval from Rajya Sabha via a voice vote on Thursday. Following this, the bill is set to undergo the final stage of presidential assent, after which it will officially become law in the country.

Here's how it will impact mobile users and telecom companies:

1. National Security Measures: The bill empowers the government to temporarily take control of telecom services in cases of national security threats or public emergencies. It allows the Centre to seize a telecom network, stop transmission, and intercept messages to prevent incitement of offenses, safeguarding public safety and interest.

2. Strict Measures Against SIM Card Fraud: To combat fraudulent issuance of SIM cards, the bill introduces stringent penalties, including a three-year jail term and up to Rs 50 lakh fine for violations. Mandatory capture of verifiable biometric data aims to prevent the misuse of telecom resources.

3. Combatting SIM Card Spoofing: The bill addresses the rising threat of SIM card spoofing by making it a punishable crime. Telecom companies like Reliance Jio, Airtel, and Vodafone-Idea have repeatedly warned subscribers against such cybercrimes.

4. Limiting TRAI's Powers: In a move welcomed by telecom companies, the bill curtails the powers of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), addressing concerns raised by industry players.

5. Eased Rules for License Surrender: Companies surrendering their telecom licenses will benefit from eased rules, including the refund of fees for licenses and registrations.

6. Consent for Promotional Messages: The bill proposes that users must provide prior consent for receiving promotional and advertising messages, adding a layer of protection against unsolicited communications.

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7. Administrative Route for Spectrum Allocation: Significant changes are introduced in the allocation of spectrum for satellite broadband services. The bill advocates for an administrative method, rejecting the auction route proposed by some domestic telecom players.

8. Penalties Cap on Telecom Companies: The proposed cap of Rs 5 crore on penalties imposed on telecom operators replaces the earlier limit of Rs 50 crore per circle. This implies a maximum penalty of around Rs 1,100 crore on a telecom company.

9. Rights of Way (ROW) for Telecom Companies: The bill suggests exemptions for telecom networks installed on any property from claims, encumbrances, liquidation, or similar issues related to the property.

10. Protection of Press Messages: The bill ensures that press messages of accredited correspondents to the Centre or state governments shall not be intercepted or detained unless prohibited under rules applicable to public emergencies and public order.

The Telecom Regulatory and Satellite Communication Bill aims to enhance national security, curb fraudulent practices, streamline regulatory powers, and promote efficient spectrum allocation. While addressing industry concerns, the bill strikes a balance between safeguarding public interests and the smooth functioning of the telecommunications sector.

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