The Telecommunications Bill, 2023, tabled in Parliament will simplify the licensing regime and usher in certainty in areas such as spectrum harmonisation, and trading/leasing/sharing and surrender of unused spectrum, a top official at Bharti Airtel said.

“As the Bill ushers in simplification in telecom licensing regime, carrying on the intent of reforms started in September 2021, the Bill will bring predictability in crucial areas related to spectrum such as harmonisation, surrender of unused spectrum, primary and secondary assignments among others,” Gopal Vittal, Chief Executive Officer, Airtel, said.

This will lead to the creation of a robust digital infrastructure and increased penetration of services, thereby benefiting every Indian, he said, adding that the Bill aims to simplify the current convoluted system, which includes various types of licensing (licence, registration, permission), into a cohesive and efficient authorisation-based regime.

Vittal, who is also Chairman, CII National Committee for Telecom and Broadband, said that legal backing for right of way (RoW) will accelerate 5G rollout, while differentiating telecom infrastructure from the property it is installed on will lower the cost of infrastructure rollout.

The spectrum reforms initiated in 2021 eliminated spectrum usage charges (SUC) for future spectrum assignments and provided the option of moratorium of past spectrum dues, and an annual spectrum roadmap. These reforms have gained further momentum under the proposed Telecommunications Bill 2023, he said.

“The graded and proportionate penalty regime will bring in ease of doing business and compliance, while increasing the enforcement rate. The national security oversight of telecom sector remains a valid provision,” Vittal said.

Another reform involves simplifying the penalty framework regime through graded penalties proportionate to the breach.

“The introduction of a voluntary undertaking and an appeal process within the government aims to mitigate litigations, thereby promoting more efficient resolution of disputes. The government has rightfully retained oversight of telecom networks from a sovereign security perspective, a requirement integral to India’s telecom licences over the last two decades,” Vittal added.

The Telecom Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday by Ashwini Vaishnaw, Minister of Communications and IT, proposing to rewrite the telecommunications law for the first time in 138 years to replace the Telegraph Act, 1885.