At present, 5G is the most awaited technology in India. It is expected to bring a revolution in communication technology with its high speed, low latency, and higher bandwidth. It will provide faster data transmission, high-resolution video streaming, remote processing, and much more. 5G is said to fundamentally change everything we know about technology and will have a great impact on our way of living.
This article provides an insight into 5G technology, the plans of its implementation in India, and the companies conducting 5G trials. It also covers the legal framework that will be applicable to the 5G technology sector. It talks about the hindrances in the way of implementation of 5G technology in India.
What is 5G technology?
5G stands for the fifth-generation cellular network technology. It promises to improve network connections by addressing the issues of speed, latency, and utility, which the earlier generations of mobile networks failed to address. When 5G networks are implemented in India, it will use new radio technology and different network architecture to provide higher bandwidth and lower latency than earlier generations. It promises to provide data speed at a rate 100 times faster than 4G networks. Latency, which refers to a measure of the time data takes to travel from the phone to the distant server, would be less than a millisecond or 60 to 120 times better as compared to the current 4G network.
5G Implementation in India
The Department of Telecommunications under the Ministry of Communications, Government of India announced that the 5G trials have been approved and telecom companies, including Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea, have also been allotted 5G spectrum for network trials across India.
Reliance Jio is one of the most leading telecom companies in India. Its 5G plan will work on the indigenous-developed network, technology, and hardware components. In September 2019, the strategy head of Jio, Anshuman Thakur said that they have the essential network and backhaul infrastructure in place and only need to invest in spectrum and equipment. It is working with Qualcomm, Samsung, and Intel to test the 5G trials ahead of its commercial deployment.
Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have also proposed to conduct 5G trials with Huawei, ZTE, Nokia, and Ericsson to enhance their capabilities in readiness for the next-generation network.
Legal Framework applicable to 5G Sector
Prior to the commercial implementation of 5G technology in India, the government plans to update the existing laws that govern telecom services. The Department of Telecommunications has proposed to replace the outdated provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 and the Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1993 with legislation that can embody the latest and evolving communication technologies.
However, at present, there are no specific legislations or regulatory laws relates to 5G technology. It will be governed under the existing framework of telecom governance until any specific legislation comes into effect. The existing legal framework dealing with the telecom sector has the following key aspects:
Indian Telegraph Act, 1885
The Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 is one of the oldest legislations related to telecom governance. It provides the Government of India the authority to take control of the existing telegraph lines and establish essential infrastructure for the expansion of telecommunication in the country. It empowers the government to grant telecom licenses to lay down and maintain telegraph anywhere throughout the country. The government can take licensed telegraphs in its possession and also order interception of messages in matters of emergency or national interest.
The Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1993
The Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act regulates the possession of wireless telegraphy apparatus. Under this Act, a person can be allowed to possess a wireless telegraphy apparatus with a license issued by the telecom authority. The Act also provides for a fine or penalty if any wireless telegraphy apparatus is held without a valid license.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997
This Act was enacted to establish the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, also known as TRAI. It provides TRAI with quasi-judicial authority for adjudication and settlement of telecom disputes. TRAI is established as an independent regulator of the telecom industry in India. It possesses mandatory, recommendatory, regulatory, and judicial powers. Its recommendatory powers include granting of telecom licenses with terms and conditions, revocation of license for not complying with the terms and conditions, and realizing the need for introducing new service providers. In matters over which TRAI has recommendatory jurisdiction, it becomes mandatory for the Department of Telecommunications to seek its recommendations. However, the Department of Telecommunications is not bound by recommendations. TRAI also has the authority to fix tariffs for telecommunication services.
The Information Technology Act, 2000
Originally, this Act was applicable to information and communication technologies. Through an amendment made in 2008, its applicability is extended to include the telecom industry. It includes telecom service providers and communication devices. Under this Act, telecom service providers are referred to as intermediaries because they receive, store and transmit data on behalf of another person. Telecom service providers are also subject to the security rules of sensitive personal data or information.
Department of Telecommunications (DoT)
The Department of Telecommunications is a department working under the Ministry of Communications, Government of India. It is vested with the authority to grant licenses and regulate the operation of telegraphs. It has to maintain international cooperation in matters concerning telecommunications. Its objective is to promote private investment, research, and developmental work in the Indian telecommunication sector.
Hindrances in 5G implementation
As various telecom companies are competing to be the first to successfully test 5G trials before its commercial rollout, the 5G network is soon going to become reality in India. It will be a great achievement in the arena of wireless technology but it also has several hindrances in its way. India is lagging in the implementation process. The Government has postpones the Spectrum auction to early 2022.
Also, some environmentalists such as Juhi Chawla show their concern about the harmful and irreversible effects of 5G on living beings as well as the ecosystem. She also filed a petition in Delhi High Court concerning the same. However, it was dismissed for not being based on proper facts.
The technology requires smartphones supporting the 5G network. It means that smartphones working on 4G technology will need to be replaced for adopting 5G. It incurs a considerable amount of money on middle-class people.
The 5G technology is expected to bring a revolution in the field of wireless technology. It will provide much higher speed and lower latency than the existing wireless networks. As per the reports of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Committee on Digital Economic Policy, 5G technology will amplify India’s GDP and also create new employment opportunities. It will help India to connect with international markets and benefit from it. However, India seems unprepared for its implementation.
We will have to consider several other things such as the enactment of a new legal framework in accordance with the latest technologies and also address the environmental concerns that might arise due to the high radio frequency used in 5G technology. Only after considering all these issues and adapting accordingly, India will be able to implement the latest wireless technology effectively.
This article is written by Monika Godara, a 2nd-year law student, pursuing BA LLB (Hons.) from University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh.
 Section 2(w) of Information technology Act, 2000
 Information Technology Rules, 2011