Cyber Risk Agenda Tops List in Telecomm Bill 2023, Passed in Loksabha

Telecommunications Bill, 2023, tabled in the Lok Sabha by communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw

The Telco sector is an industry undergoing significant change. We have seen how these organizations have shifted from traditional business models, as carriers of voice and data connectivity, to enablers of sophisticated technology.

CISOs are being provided broader responsibility and accountability to build cyber resilience across enterprise technology and active telecom network (along with value added services).

Telcos are enabling new age digital business model and to ensure that the security risks are managed well, cyber risk agenda is being broadened to include digital security risk (covering identity, API security, connected devices amongst many others).

According to GSMA, there are around 5.5 billion mobile device users worldwide, plus nearly three billion IoT connections, and how consumers use their devices is constantly evolving.

As people increasingly depend on digital services daily, the telco industry is experiencing a higher need for mobile apps that handle payments, transportation ticketing, identity management, and more.

Regulators are focused on cyber agenda, which is leading to specific compliance requirements on cyber security for Telco.

Government  is planning  to form an agency that can look to create a robust security apparatus to protect critical mobile networks from cyberattacks and other illegal break-ins.

Steps take in to secure the Telco Picture

‘Telcos can’t sell SIMs without biometric-based identification’

  • The much-awaited Telecommunications Bill, 2023, tabled in the Lok Sabha by communications minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, is billed as a major reform push and seeks to usher in a liberalised regime for heralding satellite-based telephony in the country by giving access to spectrum on an administrative basis, unlike the regular practice of auctions for terrestrial airwaves.
  • This will make it easier for companies such as Elon Musk’s Starlink, Jeff Bezos’s Project Kuiper, and Bharti’s OneWeb to begin satellite communications services in the country.
  • Communications services through over-the-top (OTT) players such as WhatsApp, Facebook messenger, Instagram chat, Apple’s Facetime, Skype and Microsoft Teams have been kept out of the legislation, despite earlier plans to bring the companies under a licensing regime that would have also enabled the government and law-enforcement agencies to monitor their services in line with similar checks on telecom companies.
  • The government is of the view that any regulatory set-up for the online services should be handled by the IT ministry in the forthcoming Digital India Bill that aims to overhaul the existing IT Act.
  • The bill will prevent illegal sale of mobile connections, the bill stipulates that telecom companies cannot sell SIM cards without identifying individual verifiable biometric-based identification.
  • For user protection, the bill stipulates that the prior consent of users for receiving certain specified messages or class of specified messages needs to be taken in case of ‘specified message’ that offer, advertise or promote goods, services, interest in property, business opportunity, employment opportunity or investment opportunity (or else risk penalties).
  • Also, the bill seeks the preparation and maintenance of one or more registers, to be called as “Do Not Disturb” register, to ensure that users do not receive specified messages without prior consent. Also, the bill seeks the creation of a mechanism to enable users report any malware or unsolicited messages, while asking telecom companies to establish an online mechanism where users can register grievances.

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