After Lok Sabha, Telecommunications Bill Passed In Upper House


  • The Bill aims to amend and consolidate laws of the development, expansion, and operation of telecommunication services and networks, spectrum assignment, and related matters
  • The Rajya Sabha okayed the Bill a day after it was approved by the Lok Sabha
  • The key feature of the Bill is the omission of over-the-top communication apps from its scope

The Rajya Sabha on Thursday (December 21) approved the Telecommunications Bill 2023, which aims to overhaul and modernise the archaic Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 and related legislations.

The Upper House okayed the Bill a day after it was approved by the Lok Sabha. It will turn into an Act after the President’s assent.

Minister of Communications Ashwini Vaishnaw introduced the Bill on December 18.

“The Bill (seeks) to amend and consolidate the law relating to development, expansion and operation of telecommunication services and telecommunication networks; assignment of spectrum; and for connected matters,” Vaishnaw said while introducing it.

The Bill seeks to replace the decades-old and archaic Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933 and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession).

The significant highlight of the Bill is the exclusion of over-the-top (OTT) communication apps from its scope, with no mention of such platforms. This decision provides a significant relief to OTT communication apps, as earlier drafts of the bill had broadened the definition of telecommunications services to include OTT communication apps like Meta-owned WhatsApp, Signal, Skype, Telegram and others.

Nevertheless, concerns have been raised by various quarters due to the broad definitions of key terms such as ‘telecommunication’ and ‘messaging’. These concerns suggest that the government might still have the option to regulate OTTs and internet-based communication applications under the new telecom bill.

The 2023 Telecommunication Bill is a big win for foreign players like Elon Musk’s Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper, as it chooses to allocate satellite communication licenses administratively.

The telecom sector in India is undergoing a remarkable transformation. As of July 2023, the country registered a subscriber base of 1.17 Bn, with a staggering 881.26 Mn internet subscribers, as per DoT.

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