India’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has published a consultation paper on the need for an overhaul of the legal framework governing the country’s telecommunications industry. The short document argues that, in light of the rate of change in the market in recent years, there is a need for the regulatory environment to be updated to keep pace with those developments. The DoT’s paper provides little in the way of specific proposals and the ministry has invited comments from industry stakeholders by 25 August 2022.
In terms of specific plans, DoT said that the new law should simplify the regulatory framework whilst providing for continuity of existing rules and guidelines to minimise disruption and promote investment. In particular, the new law should not modify terms and conditions with retrospective effect in a way that would negatively impact those affected by the change. The new law should also provide for the licensing of new players within the value chain such as infrastructure providers, Right of Way (RoW) providers and service providers. The paper highlights seven key areas that need to be addressed, the majority of which have been contentious issues over the last decade. The topics in question are: spectrum management, which the DoT says should be more flexible; RoW, with the development of common ducts and an effective dispute resolution process to be priorities; the scope of the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF); the development of a system to ensure that penalties are proportionate to offences; public safety and national security, including provisions for national emergencies and an update set of safety standards for equipment; the simplification of the procedures for mergers and acquisitions; and provisions for insolvency with regards to continuity of service and spectrum rights.