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IPU Reforms under Telecommunication Laws

Authored By- Hemangee Sharma

Keywords- The Indian Telegraph Act 1885, The Wireless Telegraphy Act 1933, The Telegraph Wires (unlawful Possession) Act 1950, The Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act 1996


Telecommunication is one of the fastest-growing areas of technology in the world. The article here talks in detail about IPU reforms under telecommunication laws the what is telecommunication, the evolution of laws, the Indian telecommunication industry, its overview, and the legal framework.


Telecommunications as an infrastructure sector brings within its ambit the widest range of services under one infrastructure sector. The precise ambit of the infrastructure services falls under ‘telecommunications’ and depends not only on the technology being used but also on the legal framework regulating the telecom sector. The following services would fall under the ‘Telecommunications’ sector due to wide and overreaching definitions of a certain term used in the statutes governing the telecommunications sector in India: (i) Landline or fixed network telephone services (basic telecom services); (ii) GSM cellular telephone services (cellular phone services or mobile phone services); (iii) Wireless in local loop mobile services (WLL mobile phone services); (iv) Internet service; (v) electronic mail services; (vi) V Sat communications services; (vii) voice mail services; (viii) data services; (ix)e-commerce; (x) global mobile personal communications services (GMPCS services or satellite communications services); (xi) wireless broadband communications and (xii) broadcasting.[i]

Evolution of communication laws

The oldest telecommunication service in India was the telegraph service, which was introduced in 1851. The British Empire in India realized the advantages of the industry and devoted much time and capital to the expansion of the telegraph industry. Within four years, 7000 km of telegraph lines were erected, connecting the North and South. With much labor put into the telegraph industry, the network expanded rapidly to provide links to Malaysia, Tibet, and Europe via Iraq and Iran. The telephone industry was introduced in 1882. Unlike the telegraph industry, the development of telephones was entrusted to the private sector and was limited to a few cities. With independence from the British Empire in 1947, India had "321 telephone exchanges, with a capacity of 100,000 lines, 86,000 working connections, 426 long-distance voice circuits, 338 long-distance public call offices, and 3324 public telegraph offices."[ii] Telecommunications and information technologies were developed in advanced countries to serve their needs and interests. The new technologies brought about speed, efficiency, and a non-polluting environment. As the technologies became cheaper with greater volumes of users, business and administration needed fewer and fewer workers.


The telecom industry is an important infrastructure industry. The industry is highly capital intensive and the payback period for investments can often be very long. An efficient telecom network is vital for the economic development of a nation. Indian telecom is more than 165 years old, beginning with the commissioning of the first telegraph line between Kolkata and Diamond Harbour in 1839. In 1948, India had 0.1 million telephone connections with a telephone density of about 0.02 telephones per hundred populations.[iii] The history of telecom in India Telecom in the real sense means the transfer of information between two distant points in space. The popular meaning of telecom always involves electrical signals and nowadays people exclude postal or any other raw telecommunication methods from its meaning. Therefore, the history of Indian telecom can be started with the introduction of the telegraph.

Legal framework

‘Telecommunications’ falls under the legislative competence of the Union and not the States.[iv] Consequently, the legal framework[v] governing the telecommunications sector is within the control of the Union Government and the Parliament. The legal framework governing the telecommunications sector in India is provided by

1. The Indian Telegraph Act 1885 and the rules made thereunder

2. The Wireless Telegraphy Act 1933 and the rules made

3. The Telegraph Wires (unlawful Possession) Act 1950 and the rules made thereunder

4. The Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act 1996[vi] and the rules made thereunder

5. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act 1997, and the rules made thereunder The control and regulation of the Union government over the telecommunication sector are enshrined in section 4 of the Telegraph Act 1885, read with Section 3 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1933.

Pre-reform period and telecommunications in India

Before the 1990's Telecommunication services in India were under complete government monopoly i.e. the Department of Telecommunication (DoT). The government also retained the rights for the manufacturing of Telecommunication equipment. MTNL and VSNL were created in the year 1986. The early 1990s saw initial attempts to attract private investment. Telecommunication equipment manufacturing was de-licensed in the year 1991.[vii]


We are today living in an information age, where technology revolution is continuing at a pace unabated throughout the world. Today everybody is dependent on telecommunication in day-to-day life. Information Communication Technology has resulted in shrinking the distance and transformed the world into a small global village. Today we are going in for convergence of technology and the communication is network-centric and it will not be wrong to say that these networks are intended for satisfaction customer/consumer and the industry is constantly driving to improve the quality of service and consumers are also aware of the value additions and their rights.

References [i] By the Government Notification No.39 dated 09.01.2004[S.O.44(E)] broadcasting is included in ‘telecommunication services’ [ii] See India: Adopting a Pro-Competitive Policy for Telecommunications by Ashok R. Menon for Telecommunications Alliance dated 12 May, 1999 [iii] Department of Telecommunications "Indian Telecommunication Statistics: Policy Framework, Status, and Trends", Economic Research Unit (Statistics Wing), Ministry of Communications, New Delhi. [iv] See Entry 31, list, Seventh Schedule, Constitution of India [v] Union Of India v. Anil Gadodia, W.P. (Criminal) No. 201/2015 [vi] This legislation seeks to regulate the possession of telegraph wires and covers only copper wires as it defines telegraph wires to covers only copper wires. [vii] "That old Gandhi magic", The Economist, November 27, 1997




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