DoT to allocate spectrum only through auctions, except for govt functions: Vaishnaw – ET Telecom

New Delhi: The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has clarified that in future, auction should be the only way to allocate spectrum, except for government and public functions. The telecommunications bill will give a legal backing to the auction process to give spectrum.

As per Communication Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, the DoT has already sent a reference to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to give recommendations for satellite and backhaul spectrum through auction.

Vaishnaw further said that the bill has clearly defined that the OTT players which provide communication services will be brought under telecom law, not the ones which offer broadcasting services.

He added that the draft bill released late Wednesday was only for consultation and the final draft will be framed after a transparent consultation process. He said that the new law will focus on providing a light-touch regulation for the industry.

The bill has enlarged the definition of telecommunication services, bringing over-the-top (OTT) communication services, satellite-based communication services, internet and broadband services, in-flight and maritime connectivity services etc under its ambit.

Vaishnaw downplayed concerns that there would be a conflict between other laws on regulating OTT communications providers, saying the new telecom law needs to be seen in consonance with the other upcoming laws to regulate India’s digital framework, including through laws on data protection, and the Digital India Act

Giving a presentation on the recently announced Telecommunications Bill, the Minister said the main thrust of the bill is to protect users. It has been proposed that a person who is receiving a call should know who is making the call. It includes all kinds of calls be it a normal voice call, WhatsApp call, Facetime or any other OTT call.

Promoting a self-sufficient space sector has been a priority of the government and the much awaited spacecom policy is likely soon. So far, satellite spectrum, as in the KU/KA bands, is given administratively but there has been growing demand from telecom companies—primarily Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea—that allocation of spectrum should be through auctions only.

“Distinction between a voice and data call has disappeared. KYC (know your customer) needs to be done for all the platforms and the services have to come under the same law,” the minister added.Vaishnaw said that the focus of the new telecom law will be to also provide regulatory certainty, and all proposed changes will be with prospective effect. He added that all existing rules, regulations and exemptions will continue. License holders will have the option to option to transition to the new system if it finds it easier.

There would also be an alternate dispute resolution which will offer different treatment for routine and serious breaches of license conditions. He said that the first attempt should be to resolve disputes through discussions.

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