The Department of Telecommunication (“Dot”) on 21st September 2022 released the draft Indian Telecommunication Bill 2022 (“Bill”) for public consultation. The Bill aims at reforming the existing legal and regulatory framework of telecommunication sector by replacing three legislations namely— the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1933, and The Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Protection) Act, 1950.

The Bill aims at regulating telecommunication services such as data communication services, broadcasting services, internet and broadband services, machine to machine (M2M) communication services, over the top (OTT) services; telecom network; telecom infrastructure and allocation of spectrum.

The central government through DoT shall have the power to grant license for providing telecommunication services and network; to grant registration for laying telecommunication infrastructure; and assign spectrum to different entities intending to provide the telecommunication services in India. The DoT may impose different entry fees, license fees, registration fees etc. on such entities depending on the nature of services provided. The spectrum shall be assigned by DoT through

(i) auction, (ii) administrative process or (iii) any other manner as notified by the central government.

The central government shall have the power to intercept, monitor or block any communication transmitted through telecommunication services, if necessary, in the interest of public safety or emergency. The Bill provides the mechanism to obtain ‘right of way’ for laying telecom infrastructure at public and privately owned premises. The Bill also proposes to dilute the role of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on any matter pertaining to issuance of license(s) to service providers. The Bill renames the ‘universal service obligation fund’ as ‘telecommunication development fund’ and requires the use of this fund for (i) research and development of new telecom services, technologies, and products, and (ii) supporting skill development and training in telecom.

One of the key features of the Bill is inclusion of ‘broadcasting, OTT, M2M, and data communication services’ within the regulatory framework of ‘telecommunication’. At present, a telecom service provider requires a license to provide telecom services, however, there is no such requirement for an OTT service provider. The central government is intending to regulate the OTT services by bringing OTTs under the ambit of the Bill. Further, the central government proposes to refund of fees paid by a telecom service provider if it surrenders its license, registration authorization or assignment.

Lastly, it is pertinent to note that the terms and conditions of the Bill shall not have the retrospective effect on the existing service providers.

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