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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Telcos advocate for testing of equipment and use cases within existing regulations.

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In Short:

Telecom carriers want regulator to ensure tech product testing on live networks comply with existing rules including lawful interception. No standalone policy needed. Telcos recommend licensed operators run regulatory sandboxes. Privacy, confidentiality of business data during testing critical. Consumer associations seek direct feedback mechanism for live testing involving consumers. Regulator invited stakeholder views on sandbox eligibility criteria and consumer protection in December 2023. Minimum net worth criteria opposed for innovation facilitation.

Kolkata: Telecom Carriers Call on Regulator for Strict Compliance on Live Product Testing

Telecom carriers have urged the regulator to ensure that any testing of tech products and use cases involving interactions with mobile users on a live communications network must adhere to existing sector regulations. The testing should also comply with lawful interception and subscriber verification rules, among other requirements.

Discussion on Driving Tech Innovation

Telcos, industry bodies, and consumer associations convened at a Trai open house to explore ways to promote cutting-edge tech innovation in the digital communications sector through transparent and secure live testing environments, commonly referred to as regulatory sandboxes.

A prominent telco has proposed that regulatory sandboxes should be excluded from the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, to safeguard privacy and confidentiality of sensitive business data shared in government-supported live product testing environments.

Stance on Regulatory Sandbox Policy Framework

Carriers emphasized that the current unified licensing rules already enable telcos to develop and test telecom products and services, with necessary checks and balances through license conditions and network testing policies. Compliance with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) regulations is mandatory within 90 days of launching a new service.

Rakesh Gujral, Vice President at Reliance Jio, highlighted the importance of complying with regulatory frameworks when interacting with telecom consumers in a live network environment.

Major telcos suggested that regulatory sandboxes should be operated by licensed operators or jointly by licensed service providers in collaboration with other entities.

Initiatives by Telecom Giants

Manoj Mishra, Vice President in Bharti Airtel’s regulatory affairs wing, emphasized the need for the regulatory sandbox to function as an advisory committee, not as a government entity.

Vodafone Idea (Vi) stressed the importance of safeguarding business data and models shared during live product testing and urged the regulator to maintain regulatory sandboxes outside the RTI Act’s scope.

Consumer Feedback and Participation

Consumer associations urged the regulator to establish a mechanism for collecting consumer feedback during live product testing exercises. They also expressed concerns about imposing minimum net worth criteria for sandbox participation, advocating for transparency in application rejection decisions.

In December 2023, the telecom regulator sought stakeholder views on eligibility criteria for sandbox participation, encouraging startups and SMEs to engage in digital tech innovations while prioritizing consumer protection against data breaches and security risks.

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