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TRAI, Telecom Regulation & Laws in India, Telecom Regulatory Act, Bodies and Ministries
The telecommunications sector includes three segments such as wireless, wireline, and internet services. As of 2021, the total subscriber base of the telecom sector is 1198.5 million users in India, one of the fastest emerging markets in terms of internet subscribers. Likewise, as of 2021, the gross revenue of the telecom sector was estimated to be Rs. 68,228 (approx. $9.35 billion).
Telecom Regulation & Laws In India
The telecoms industry in India is regulated by central legislations such as the following.
- Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act, 1997
- Indian Telegraph Act 1885
- India Wireless Act, 1933
- Information Technology Act, 2000
Also, there are some additional policies, notifications and circulars that are issued by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the central government. The violations can be made liable under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860.
With advancements, other policies and regulations have been set up as follows.
- Cable Television networks (Regulation) Act, 1995
- Cinematograph Act, 1952
- Sports Broadcasting Signals (Mandatory Sharing with Prasar Bharati) Act, 2007
- Press Council Act, 1978
- Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (IT Rules 2021)
- Personal Data Protection Bill, 2019
Telecom Regulatory Act, Bodies and Ministries
The Ministry of Communications, TRAI, DoT and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) regulate the telecom sector. Also, the Professional News Broadcasters Standards Authority, Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), News Broadcasting Standards Authority, Broadcasting Content Complaints Council and Indian Broadcasting Foundation.
Indian Telegraph Act 1885
The Telegraph Act regulates the maintenance and working of telegraphs. It regulates the provisioning of communication networks and services. This is followed by the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1993, which focuses on wireless communication and IT Act dedicated to electronics communications. The service providers have to get specific licenses and authorizations from specific authorities to provide infrastructure and business process outsourcing services, among others.
Telecom Regulatory Authority Of India (TRAI) Act, 1997
TRAI is the regulatory authority for telecommunications and broadcasting. The CCI (Competition Commission of India) established under the Competition Act, 2002 works autonomously to enforce the legislation, promote competition and prevent activities having adverse effects on the competition in the country.
Who Handles Appeals Made By TRAI?
TDSAT (Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal is an authority against the decision or order of TRAI. Appeals against decisions and orders of the CCI go to the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal and the Supreme Court of India. Notably, the orders issued by the Tribunal related to telecoms, broadcasting and tariff matters can be appealed before the Supreme Court. When it comes to cyber-related issues, the order can be appealed to before the High Court.
What Is Unified License?
The DoT introduced the Unified License (UL) in 2013, which converges multiple license terms for service providers. It provides authorization for the following.
- Access service
- National long-distance service
- International long-distance service
- Public mobile radio trunking service
- Global mobile personal communication by satellite service
- Commercial very small aperture terminal closed user group
- Resale of international private leased circuit service
Any entity that is incorporated in India can apply for a UL. To get this license, the entity should comply with the applicable caps imposed under the FDI regime. Besides the applicable fees, a bank guarantee is also required. The UL is important to comply with additional standards that are prescribed for technology and services under the TRAI advisories, and IT ACT.
Important Telecom Terms And Conditions
Interconnection Usage Charges: The Interconnection Usage Charges (IUC) are the charges that the Telecom Service Provider (TSP) has to pay to another TSP for transiting, origination, or termination of the calls. It requires a specific charge that was fixed earlier that is subject to revision. In India, IUC is set by the TRAI.
Spectrum auctions: Spectrum in India is allotted based on the NFAP (National Frequency Allocation Plan) that has been released by the WPC. The spectrum allocation in the country is provided based on the auctions to make sure that allocation is fair. When it comes to the unauthorized use of spectrum, the licensing authorities issue notices and warnings to the infringing party. The possession of any equipment that needs a license without a relevant license. It can lead to penal sanctions.
The Spectrum Usage Charge (SUC) is payable by the licenses and is computed depending on the Adjusted Gross Revenue that is calculated depending on service authorization, under specific license terms. As per WPC's order, the specified rates of SUC for the TSPs with license to access services in various spectrum bands such as 700MHz, 800MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, 2100MHz, 2300MHz, and 2500MHz.
Any changes made to the spectrum licenses will be governed by the conditions that are applicable to the TSP, and it depends on the service type license. DoT has also come up with guidelines prescribed for the merger or transfer of various categories under the UL.
Notably, the Guidelines of Trading of Access Spectrum by Access Service Providers, 2015 and the Guidelines of Sharing of Access Spectrum by Access Service Providers, 2021 govern the trading and sharing of access spectrum, which is subject to compliance conditions that are imposed by the government of India. All these are subject to licensing fees as well as dues paid.
It is subject to specific conditions as given below.
- Spectrum trading is not permitted when licenses have spectrum in various bands.
- The right to transfer to use the spectrum is permitted and not leasing.
- Frequency of swapping or reconfigurations within the assignments made to the licensee is not considered as trading.
- It involves a non-refundable transfer fee of 1% of the total transaction amount of the mentioned trade/market price is payable on all the spectrum trade transactions.
Mobile Number Portability: The Mobile Number Portability (MNP) lets subscribers port from one network to another without changing their mobile number. TRAI prescribes the requirements for MNP under the Telecommunication Mobile Number Portability Regulations, 2019 aka MNP Regulations that are amended on a timely basis. These regulations also provide for further guidance on associated costs and the generation of porting codes.
India Wireless Act, 1933
The main objective of the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 is to regulate the possession of wireless telegraphy apparatus. One of the major sources of revenue for the Indian State Broadcasting Service was revenue from the licence fee from working of wireless apparatus under the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885.
Presently the Act is used to prosecute cases, related to illegal possession and transmission via satellite phones. Any person who wishes to use satellite phones for communication purposes has to get licence from the Department of Telecommunications. Recently, foreign tourists were charged under this Act for illegal possession of satellite phones.
The Central Government under section 4 has the power to make rules to exempt persons from the provision of the Act. Such exemption given by the Central Government may be a general exemption or based on certain conditions. It may exempt certain persons from the application of the Act, for certain wireless telegraphy apparatus only.