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OTT communications should be excluded from ambit of definition of telecom services

The Broadband India Forum (BIF), in its submission to the draft Telecommunication Bill 2022, has urged for clear definition and play of words so that there is no confusion. For instance, it said ‘telecommunication network’ has been decoupled from ‘telecommunication services’ so that licences can be given only for so-called ‘telecommunication services’.

“In our view, the definition of ‘telecommunication services’ is incorrect and misleading because ‘telecommunication services’ cannot be provided without ‘telecommunication network’, and that part is missing in the definition of ‘telecommunication services’,” said the BIF in its comments on the Draft Bill.

It is also said that Indians suffer more Internet blackouts than citizens of any other nation today. There have been at least 683 shutdowns in the decade since 2012. In the last five years, India has suffered at least 543 shutdowns, and that amounts to over a 100 Internet blackouts annually.

Therefore, “it is submitted that the Draft Bill must lay down a proper mechanism with administrative procedures that must be followed in all cases where denial of access to the Internet is ordered by the State”, said the industry body.

It noted that over-the-top (OTT) communication service, broadcasting service, Internet-based communication cannot, therefore, be included by way of specific inclusions or by way of providing a very wide definition of telecommunication services while missing the basic ingredient of ‘telecommunication network’.

It has also submitted that “customer equipment” should not be included in the consumer electronic products within the ambit of Section 23 of the Draft Bill, as a number of end consumer products and solutions are getting integrated with the Internet such as cars, smart ACs, smart fridges, smart cameras, smart TVs and many more.

“Moreover, consumer electronic products are different from core telecommunication products and solutions having unique requirements and characteristics — shelf-life, supply chain logistics, clientele and end users, marketing and sales channels, procurement and purchase channels, product lifecycle (both hardware and software) and fast-paced innovations,” said the BIF.

Therefore, the proposed provision in the Draft Bill will have a major implication in consumer electronic product market and manufacturing, it said.

Mobile phones are already subject to various regulations like Ministry of Electronics and IT/ Bureau of Indian Standards – Testing and certification; Department of Telecommunications (DoT) – SAR declaration; DoT/WPC- Equipment Type approval; DoT- IMEI registration of all imported phones; DoT- IMEI registration of all domestic phones (upcoming), and Ministry of Environment – end-of-life for e-waste, the BIF added.

According to sources, the consultation on Draft Telecom Bill has ended on Monday and government has received more than 900 responses. PTI

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