Telecommunications Bill 2023: Navigating Biometric Mandates

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The Telecommunications Bill 2023, recently tabled in Lok Sabha on December 18, introduces significant changes to India’s telecom landscape. Among its notable provisions is the mandate for biometric identification by telecom companies (telcos) before issuing SIM cards to consumers.

The proposed legislation states, “Any authorised entity providing telecommunication services shall identify the person through the use of verifiable biometric-based identification as prescribed by the Central Government.” This move is a clear step towards enhancing security measures in the telecom sector, ensuring that individuals are accurately identified before obtaining SIM cards.

One of the noteworthy aspects of the bill is the exclusion of Over-the-Top (OTT) services such as e-commerce, online messaging, and payments from the definition of telecommunication services. This adjustment follows a previous draft that stirred controversy by bringing OTT services under the bill’s purview. The decision to keep OTT services out of the regulatory framework reflects a response to concerns raised by internet companies and civil society.

Telecom Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw played a pivotal role in presenting the bill, emphasizing the need for a balanced regulatory approach. The exclusion of OTT services from the legislation is seen as a response to the diverse perspectives expressed by stakeholders in the industry.

About Biometric Mandates:

Beyond biometric mandates and OTT exclusions, the bill introduces a series of reforms in the telecom licensing and spectrum allocation regime. The overarching goal is to simplify operations in the rapidly expanding telecom sector. These reforms aim to create a more streamlined and efficient framework, facilitating the growth and development of telecommunications in India.

The emphasis on simplification is evident in the reforms related to telecom licensing and spectrum allocation. By reducing complexities and bureaucratic hurdles, the bill aims to create a more business-friendly environment for telecom companies. This approach is expected to foster innovation, competition, and investment in the sector.

The Telecommunications Bill 2023 represents a comprehensive effort to adapt India’s regulatory framework to the evolving dynamics of the telecom industry. The focus on biometric identification enhances security, while the exclusion of OTT services reflects a careful consideration of the diverse digital landscape. As the bill progresses through the legislative process, its impact on the telecom sector and its stakeholders will undoubtedly be closely monitored.