Discuss the role of TRAI in India’s telecom growth story. What are the pros and cons of the recent provisions related to TRAI in the Telecom Bill?

The Union government has released the draft of ‘The Indian Telecommunication Bill, 2022’ wherein it has proposed several significant changes.

Key amendments:

  • The draft Bill consolidates three separate acts that govern the telecommunications sector, i.e. Indian Telegraph Act 1885, Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act 1933 and The Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Protection) Act 1950.
  • Inclusion of OTTs in the definition of Telecommunications services – OTT telecommunication services providers (such as WhatsApp, Telegram) will be covered under the licensing regime, and subjected to similar rules as other telecom operators to create a level-playing field, as the telecom service providers have to incur high costs of licences and spectrum, whereas OTT players use their infrastructure to offer free services such as voice calls, messages, etc.
  • Framework for assigning Spectrum.
  • Creation of a Telecommunication Development Fund.
  • Preventing Cyber Frauds by providing the identity of the person sending a message to a user receiving it.

Problems with the draft bill:

  • The proposed bill will dilute powers of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) by reducing it to a recommendatory body.
  • Arbitrary powers to the government.

Way forward:

The draft Bill represents an important step forward. But, there is a need to address the concerns of various stakeholders in the telecom sector.

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