India has one of the world’s most vibrant telecom markets, with more than 1170.45 million telecom subscribers, poised to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.4% until 2025. It is somewhat surprising, then, that the laws governing India’s telecom boom have been rooted in the 19th century! The Indian Telegraph Act dates back to 1885, and is still the grundnorm for all telecom regulations in India. It is only now, in 2022, that India has proposed a new telecommunications bill to replace the venerable 1885 act.
That India requires a comprehensive framework for telecom regulations is clear. In addition to addressing issues such as spam calls, OTT, etc., an interesting area of regulation would be the use of telecom technology for the Internet of Things (“IoT”). Earlier this year, in July 2022, the current Indian telecom regulator (“TRAI”) released a paper on using embedded SIMs for Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications. This is not the first time the telecom regulator has touched upon this increasingly important topic. With increasing interest in the M2M communications field, it is worth examining the regulatory state of play.
Let us deal with some basics first. M2M communication is a form of data communication that involves one or more entities that do not necessarily require human interaction or intervention in the process of communication. Such communication may be by way of internet or otherwise. When devices connect through means of an internet, it becomes part of the Internet of Things system.
M2M communications inter alia allows devices to connect over the Internet and thereby has the potential to transform the outreach and performance of any sector through the means of automation and intelligence to end devices. Examples include vehicle tracking, smart metering, ATM, wearable health devices, point of sale, smart parking, street light control system, etc.
The Indian policy framework uses the term IoT and M2M interchangeably at times. The regulatory framework on M2M Communications have been developing with Department of Telecommunications (“DoT”) being the front runner and nodal authority, recognizing such emerging technologies, as early as 2016.
TRAI in its Consultation Paper dated July 25, 2022 has identified the following as part of the M2M Ecosystem:
Device Manufacturer/Provider: These are the device manufacturer responsible to provide raw data to the network provider and application provider, according to the business model.
Connectivity/ Network Provider: These are the connectivity providers, owning underlying network to provide connectivity and related services for M2M Service providers
M2M Service Provider: These provide M2M services to third parties using telecom resource.
M2M Application Provider: These provide M2M Application to end users.
End user: These are user of M2M services.
These stakeholders mingle in a way that enables firstly, a device (e.g. sensor) to capture an event (e.g. location), then the same is is relayed through a network (wireless, wired or hybrid) to an application (software program), and lastly, it translates the captured event into meaningful information to the end user.
We provide below a gist of the key policy framework developments in respect of M2M communications:
Nature of Document
What it provides?
9 December, 2016
26 September, 2018
16 May, 2018
30 May, 2019
14 January, 2022
17 January, 2022
8 February, 2022
16 February, 2022
25 July, 2022
We also understand that a policy specific for M2M technology is underway and may be introduced next year.
With this, it becomes apparent that the policy framework in India is attempting to catch up with the new emerging technologies and the potential of M2M communication has duly recognized in the TRAI Consultation Paper as well, which states that “M2M technology has the potential to unleash significant productivity gain and economic growth, unlike any previous technology wave.”