This piece reviews the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommendations on “Privacy, Security and Ownership of Data in the Telecom Sector” released on July 16, 2018 (Recommendations) and attempts to highlight some of their more immediate potential consequences.

Consultations are typically taken up by TRAI based on requests from the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). In the instant case, the TRAI has atypically put out the consultation and subsequently the Recommendations of its own volition, without an explicit mandate on the subject.

TRAI recommendations are approved and implemented by the DoT pursuant to the procedure under Section 11 of the TRAI Act, 1997. This process may involve the DoT seeking clarifications, modifications or otherwise referring items back the TRAI.

This process may turn out to be more complex in connection with the current set of Recommendations, given that much of their content recommends the passing of broad-ranging new legislation that is not limited to only the telecom sector.

Continue Reading The TRAI Recommendations on Privacy, Security, and Ownership of Data in the Telecom Sector, 2018

On 1 May 2018, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) released the much-awaited Draft National Digital Communications Policy – 2018 (Draft Policy) for public comments. The Draft Policy aims to give direction not only to the telecom market but also to digital communications and prepares the country for the future. The policy, when finalised, will act as a framework for all future legal and regulatory changes/ development in Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

The Draft Policy proposes the restructuring of the legal, licensing and regulatory framework including amendments to the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and related legislation, so as to enable the utilisation of newer/ advanced technologies/ convergence. Many stakeholders would suspect the same shall result in unrestricted interconnection between the internet protocol (IP) and Public Switched Telephone (PSTN) networks. The Draft Policy intends introduction of a light touch regulatory regime for various services such as over-the-top (OTT) that allows providers to stream content via the internet, cloud computing, data centres, etc. The Draft Policy also makes clear the requirement to amend terms and conditions for other service providers (OSPs). It further suggests establishing a unified policy framework and spectrum management regime.

Continue Reading Draft National Digital Communications Policy 2018: Restructuring the Legal and Regulatory Regime

Most frequent fliers would have been familiar with the requirement to power off personal electronic devices (PEDs) for the duration of domestic flights. It was not until 2014, that Indian fliers were permitted to operate mobile phones and other PEDs on “flight mode” (in non-transmitting mode). The rationale for this restriction, as explained by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), is that radio transmitters in most communications devices may, and have in the past, caused harmful interference with crucial on-board flight systems. Therefore, while several Indian carriers such as Jet Airways already provide on-board Wi-Fi services, such services are limited to the provision of locally stored content to airborne PEDs, and do not enable passengers to connect to the internet cloud.

However, recent technological developments have now made it possible for passengers to use transmitting PEDs while airborne, without causing harmful interference to crucial flight operation systems or terrestrial communication networks. Together these technological solutions are labelled In-Flight Connectivity (IFC) services. Typically, IFC solutions are provided by making use of aeronautical mobile satellite services that use a satellite link to provide IFC to onboard PEDs; or by using Mobile Communications on-board Aircraft (MCA) systems, which while typically operating on terrestrial GSM communications bands, use an air-to-ground satellite link to establish connections with terrestrial networks.

Continue Reading In-Flight Connectivity: “VNO” or NO “VNO”?