The government’s recent move in the telecom bill has brought significant implications for communication service providers, satellite companies, and major industry players.
OTT Players Breathe a Sigh of Relief
Over-the-top (OTT) players, such as WhatsApp and Telegram, have been excluded from the definition of telecommunication services in the telecom bill. This decision offers considerable respite to these communication apps as they will now steer clear of telecom regulations. Insiders revealed that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) believes the existing definition under the Indian Telegraph Act suffices, eliminating the need to distinctly categorize OTT in the new bill.
Satcom Companies Score a Win
Satellite communication (Satcom) companies, including Elon Musk’s Starlink, Bharti Group-backed OneWeb, and Amazon, are set to benefit immensely. The bill proposes an administrative allocation of spectrum for satellite services. This move, however, isn’t favored by all; giants like Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea had hoped for an auction of these airwaves.
Telecom Bill’s Journey and Evolution
The telecom bill, which was endorsed by the Cabinet on Friday, is slated for a Parliament table, although the exact timing remains undisclosed. The draft bill was introduced to the public for consultation in September of the preceding year. It intends to supersede three existing laws, emphasizing the evolving nature of communication technologies.
Concerns arose when the information and broadcasting ministry questioned the inclusion of broadcasting services as part of telecommunication services in the original draft bill. Following these apprehensions, industry associations urged that content and broadcasting be excluded from the telecom bill’s ambit.
Satellite Spectrum Allocation Process
The DoT is set to determine the regulations for satellite spectrum allocation, following consultations with the industry and other stakeholders. This approach suggests a more collaborative process, ensuring that all parties’ needs and concerns are addressed.
Clarity on TRAI’s Role
To avoid any overlapping of roles and responsibilities, the government has resolved potential ambiguities around the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai’s) powers. Trai is presently delving into the regulation of OTT communication apps, with the government set to review its recommendations.
Important Information Table:
|OTT Players||Excluded from telecom regulation|
|Beneficiary Satcom Companies||Starlink, OneWeb, Amazon|
|Opponents of Satellite Allocation||Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea|
|Telecom Bill Introduction||September of the previous year|
|Existing Laws to be Replaced||Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, and one more|
|Stakeholders for Consultation||Industry bodies, broadcasting ministry, TRAI, and other related stakeholders|
|Trai’s Ongoing Task||Consulting on regulating OTT communication apps|
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