India amends gear procurement rules for ISPs

In a move that could impact Chinese telecom equipment vendors, the Indian government has mandated that Internet service providers (ISPs) purchase equipment approved by it because of concerns over national security.

The government had amended the procurement rules for the telcos earlier this month.

Starting June 15, 2021, ISPs will now be able to buy equipment listed as "trusted products." This list is yet to be finalized by the Government. As of December 2020, India had 1,437 ISPs.

Not welcome: India is doubling down on efforts to block Chinese vendors from their networks. (Source: Huawei)
Not welcome: India is doubling down on efforts to block Chinese vendors from their networks. (Source: Huawei)

The DoT has added a clause in the ISP License Agreement, saying that the government can impose riders on the procurement of equipment on the grounds of defense or national security. The government has authorized the National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC) for this. Further, the ISPs will need to provide information as and when sought by the authority.

"With effect from June 15, the licensee shall only connect trusted products in its network and seek permission from the designated authority [NCSC] for the upgrade of existing network utilizing telecommunications equipment not designated as trusted products," says a notification by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

The ongoing annual maintenance contracts for the existing equipment will not be affected by this.

Ripple effect

The move also potentially impacts organizations like Power Grid Corporation, RailTel Corporation, and Gas Authority of India Ltd, which hold ISP licenses. However, as government organizations they were already required to get prior approval from central government, before procuring any equipment from countries which share land borders with India.

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The ISPs are known to use Chinese gear extensively because of the cost advantage offered by them. Post tension at the India-China border last year, the administration has taken several initiatives, including banning more than 200 Chinese apps to bring down the usage of Chinese products and services.

The government also canceled and then subsequently re-issued a new BSNL 4G tender to ensure that the Chinese vendors are not able to participate.

The Chinese vendors, Huawei and ZTE, have been banned in several countries, including the US, the United Kingdom and Australia, because of security concerns.

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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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