Telecom operators have submitted differing views on the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) paper to lay down a new legal framework for telecommunications. On the issue of spectrum assignment, Reliance Jio proposes auction as the only way to allocate all kinds of airwaves, while Bharti Airtel demands that only terrestrial access spectrum be auctioned and satellite and backhaul airwaves be granted administratively. Meanwhile, Vodafone Idea Limited (Vi) is of the opinion that all spectrum, apart from backhaul, should be auctioned.

The telecom operators have submitted their comments as part of the consultation on devising a new legal framework to govern the telecommunications sector in the country. As per DoT officials, a draft document is being prepared to be shared for further comments from all stakeholders.

Besides, the satellite and technology players have also been opposing auction as the only way to allocate spectrum. As per the consultation paper issued by DoT, currently, spectrum assignment is done through a combination of policies and court orders. Therefore, the DoT intends to bring in regulatory clarity and lay down a specific legal framework. According to the consultation paper, the principle needs to be that spectrum will be assigned to best serve the common good and enable wide-spread access to telecommunication services.

Apart from clarity on spectrum assignment, telecom operators are unanimously seeking a Convergence Act for regulating various communication services like over-the-top (OTT), direct to home (DTH) and content. The telecom firms have reiterated their demand to regulate OTT communication services like WhatsApp, Signal and Telegram. It has been highlighted that while telecom operators must comply with various rules and regulations, OTT players have no such policy, which also offer the same set of services to consumers. On its part, DoT too feels that OTT apps should be regulated, and the department is currently working on a mechanism to frame a law on the same.