The much-awaited Telecommunications Bill, 2023, that allows the government to take over, manage or suspend any or all telecommunication services or networks in the interest of national security, was introduced in Parliament on Monday.

“The Central Government may, if satisfied that it is necessary or expedient to do so, in the interest of national security ... taking over the control and management of, or suspending the operation of, or entrusting any authority of the Central Government to manage any or all of any telecommunication services, or any telecommunication network or part, thereof, connected with such telecommunication services,” it said.

Cyber security of telecom networks

It also said the Centre may by rules, provide for measures to protect and ensure the cyber security of telecommunication networks and telecommunication services, and the measures may include collection, analysis and dissemination of traffic data that is generated, transmitted, received or stored in telecommunication networks.

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The security measures will include cyber security for telecommunication services and telecommunication networks; and encryption and data processing in telecommunication.

It further said on the occurrence of any public emergency, including disaster management, or in the interest of public safety, the Centre or a State government or any officer specially authorised on this behalf by the Centre or a State government, can take temporary possession of any telecommunication service or telecommunication network from an authorised entity; or provide for an appropriate mechanism to ensure that messages of a user or group of users authorised for response and recovery during a public emergency, are routed on priority.

Spectrum for satellite broadband services

The bill includes significant changes in the allocation of spectrum for satellite broadband services. The Telecom Bill has cleared that spectrum for such services can be assigned on administered prices, without auction. Key beneficiaries of the bill’s provision for administrative allocation of spectrum under the GMPCS licence will be companies such as Bharti’s OneWeb, Reliance’s Jio Satellite Communications, Elon Musk’s Starlink, and Amazon’s Project Kuiper. This method of spectrum allocation, bypassing auctions, is expected to accelerate the launch of services.

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“Certain satellite-based services such as teleports, television channels, direct-to-home, head-end in the sky, digital satellite news gathering, very small aperture terminals, global mobile personal communication (GMPC) by satellite, national long distance, international long distance, mobile satellite service in L and S bands,” it said.

Appointment of TRAI Chairman, members

On the appointment of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman and Members, the Bill said they are to be appointed from the private sector.

“ a Chairperson if such person has at least 30 years of professional experience and has served as a member of the board of directors or a chief executive of a company in the areas as specified in this section; or as a Member if such person has at least 25 years of professional experience and has served as a member of the board of directors or chief executive of a company in the areas as specified in this section,” it said.