Launch of MNP services
Proposed telecommunications infrastructure policy
Approach towards green telecommunications
Proposed telecommunications equipment manufacturing policy
New National Telecommunications Policy
Update on lawful interception

This update sets out some of the recent significant developments and proposed developments in the Indian telecommunications sector. All such developments and policy initiatives are aimed at making the sector more beneficial, for both service providers and consumers in India.

Launch of MNP services

Mobile number portability (MNP) services were launched in India on January 20 2011. MNP permits mobile phone users to change their service providers without having to forgo their numbers. To make use of the MNP service, a customer must pay a maximum of Rs19 to the new operator for 'porting' the number. The customer must send a text message from the existing phone to 1900. Based on this, a unique porting code will be sent by the existing service provider to the customer. The customer must then file an application with the new service provider mentioning the code for transferring the connection. A subscriber is eligible to make a request for porting his or her number provided that a period of 90 days has expired from:

  • the date of activation of his or her mobile connection in the case of a mobile number not ported earlier; or
  • from the date of activation of his or her mobile number after its last porting, in the case of a mobile number which has been ported earlier.

Proposed telecommunications infrastructure policy

On April 13 2011 the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) released its recommendations on telecommunications infrastructure policy. At present, India does not have a policy for ensuring the growth and deployment of an efficient telecommunications infrastructure. The TRAI has formulated recommendations based on a consultation process. This recommendation suggests, among other things, that:

  • the telecommunications infrastructure be treated as an essential infrastructure;
  • infrastructure provider-1 (IP-1) companies be brought under the unified licence;
  • telecommunications infrastructure provider companies be extended tax benefits; and
  • IP-1 companies be permitted to install and share active networks (limited to antenna, feeder cable, Node B, Radio Access Network and transmission systems), provided that they are brought under the proposed unified licensing regime.

Approach towards green telecommunications

On April 12 2011 the TRAI released its recommendations on the approach towards green telecommunications. With the increasing pervasiveness of mobile phones and the widespread adoption of information and communications technology (ICT) worldwide, the ICT sector is expected to contribute around 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. While globally the telecommunications sector contributes around 0.7% of greenhouse gas emissions, the corresponding figure in India is 1%. While this might appear insignificant in absolute terms, the rapid growth of telecommunications envisaged over the next decade calls for an effort to contain and reduce its carbon footprint. Carbon emissions in the telecommunications sector are mainly from three areas - network operations, equipment manufacturing and waste disposal.

Among other things, the TRAI suggested that measures to make the telecommunications sector more environmentally friendly should be an integral part of the proposed National Telecom Policy. At least 50% of rural towers and 33% of urban towers should be powered by hybrid power (a combination of renewable energy technologies and grid power) by 2015, while all rural towers and 50% of urban towers should be hybrid-powered by 2020. By 2015, all products, equipment and services in the telecommunications network should be assessed for energy and performance and certified with a 'green passport', including an energy consumption rating (ECR), and an 'energy passport'.

The Telecommunications Engineering Centre (TEC) should be the nodal centre, which will certify telecommunications products, equipment and services on the basis of ECR ratings. The TEC can either appoint independent certifying agencies under its guidance or certify them through its quality assurance teams. The TEC must also prepare and issue an ECR document delineating the specifics of the test procedures and the measurement methodology used.

By 2015, all mobile phones must be free of brominates, chlorinated compounds and antimony trioxide in accordance with the E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2010 proposed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, to be followed by all telecommunications manufacturers, as and when notified. All mobile manufacturers and distributors must place collection bins at appropriate places for the collection of e-waste, including mobile phones, batteries and chargers. All service providers must declare the carbon footprint of their network operations to the TRAI, in the prescribed format.

Proposed telecommunications equipment manufacturing policy

On April 12 2011 the TRAI also released its recommendations on telecommunications equipment manufacturing policy. These recommendations outline:

  • policy targets;
  • measures to achieve these targets;
  • a plan of action;
  • the financial implications of the measures proposed; and
  • the benefits of the policy.

The proposed policy aims to enhance the share of domestically manufactured products. They can be either Indian manufactured products (IMPs) or Indian products (IPs), based on where the IP rights reside. Under the proposal, domestically manufactured products will be given preferential market access, to the extent of the percentages indicated for them. All government licensees are required to give preference to an IP or IMP (in that order) before accessing low value-added products or imported products. Under the recommendations, all domestic manufacturers with an annual turnover of less than Rs10 billion will receive a subsidy for equity capital and working capital for a period of five years, at a rate of 6% for IP manufacturers and 3% for IMP manufacturers. The recommendations also propose a variety of fiscal incentives for domestically manufactured products.

New National Telecommunications Policy

The first National Telecommunications Policy (NTP) was announced by the government in 1994, when there were around 8 million telecommunications lines.(1) The 1994 NTP defined certain important objectives, including:

  • the availability of telephone on demand;
  • the provision of basic telecommunications services at affordable and reasonable prices and at world standards; and
  • the promotion of India's emergence as a major manufacturing base and exporter of telecommunications equipment.

Private sector participation was also invited, with licences issued to 14 operators in the private sector. In 1999 a new NTP was announced that further opened up the telecommunications sector for private sector participation. Key objectives of the 1999 NTP included:

  • availability of affordable and effective access to telecommunications;
  • creation of a modern and efficient telecommunications infrastructure;
  • transformation of the telecommunications sector into a more competitive sector; and
  • enhanced efficiency and transparency in spectrum management.

The telecommunications sector has since witnessed drastic growth - by September 30 2010 the total telephone subscriber base had reached 723.28 million.(2) As a consequence, the minister of communications and information technology recently announced plans for a 2011 NTP. Consultations will be held with stakeholders to formulate a clear and transparent telecommunications regime covering:

  • licensing;
  • spectrum allocation;
  • tariffs and pricing;
  • flexibility within licences;
  • spectrum sharing;
  • spectrum trading; and
  • mergers and acquisitions.

The minister also added that three elements - revenue for the government, affordable services to users and robust growth of the sector - would be the base on which the new telecommunications policy would be built.

Update on lawful interception

On October 18 2011 the Department of Telecommunication issued a public notice directed at all persons and companies that have imported, procured or possess equipment or sub-systems for the monitoring, interception or surveillance of communication. Such persons must inform the department of the details of such equipment within 60 days of publication of the notice, to the relevant telecommunications enforcement, resource and monitoring cells of the Department of Telecommunications.

The notice makes it clear that the government has the power to order the interception of telegraph messages (ie, any communication sent by telegraph or given to a telegraph officer to be sent by telegraph or to be delivered) under the Telegraph Act 1885, in the interest of the sovereignty or integrity of India, the security of the state, friendly relations with foreign states or public order, or for preventing incitement to the commission of an offence. The Telegraph Act defines 'telegraph' as:

"any appliance, instrument, material or apparatus used or capable of use for transmission or reception of signs, signals, writing, images and sounds or intelligence of any nature by wire, visual or other electro-magnetic emissions, Radio waves or Hertzian waves, galvanic, electric or magnetic means".

Further, the notice provides that, under law, no equipment or sub-system can be used for unauthorised communication networks, monitoring, intercepting and surveillance of communication.


Driven by various policy initiatives, the Indian telecommunications sector has witnessed a complete transformation in the last decade. It has achieved phenomenal growth during the last few years and is poised to take a big leap in the future.

For further information on this topic please contact Megha Bhargava or Vishwanath Pratap Singh at Amarchand & Mangaldas & Suresh A Shroff & Co by telephone (+91 11 2692 0500), fax (+ 91 11 2692 4900) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]).


(1) In terms of the 1994 NTP.

(2) In terms of the Information Note to the Press (Press Release 63/2010) released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India on December 1 2010.