Can India update its archaic telecoms laws before 5G arrives?

Can India update its archaic telecoms laws before 5G arrives?

Easy regulation, promotion of innovation and the inclusion of provisions that relate to M2M communication and IoT. Those are some of the promises of a planned Indian overhaul of telecom laws.

The Indian Telegraph Act came into effect in 1885. The Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act dates back to 1933. Now the country’s Department of Telecommunications (DoT) hopes that these often inappropriate laws can be updated with rules that embody current reality and evolving communication trends – before the launch of 5G.

Legal experts from the National Law University (NLU) in Delhi will help with the redraft, whose provisions will take into account developing areas like machine-to-machine (M2M) communication and the internet of things (IoT), among other key elements of 5G technology.

NLU has been given four months to prepare the new draft; it will then provide suggestions to the DoT. Its experts will be advised by academics from technical and economic backgrounds.

Not surprisingly, this development has been widely reported in a number of Indian publications including Mint, which suggests that this overhaul is required to support prime minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India mission.

There will be a lot to take into account: net neutrality, traffic management of differential pricing (especially in the context of IoT) and consumer rights  being only a few of the areas that will need examination.

Telecom infrastructure and the often vexed question of right of way rules for network development will also be on the agenda, along with other issues such as spectrum allocation, security requirements, authentication and a lot more.

This update to the telecoms laws is likely to be a welcome development among operators and vendors, though it does beg the question of whether the new laws will be in place well before the next 5G spectrum auctions, for which there is not yet a date. Also, will four months be enough?

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