India launches Trusted Telecom site to address security concerns
The Indian government has launched a portal to give clearance to telecom gear before it is installed by communications service providers (CSPs). New rules mandate the telcos to use equipment from "trusted" sources only.
The Indian telcos need to access the website www.trustedtelecom.gov.in to find vendors from whom they can procure particular network equipment. The website is part of the National Security Directive on the telecommunications sector.
"An assessment is made of the vendors and the sources of the components to determine trusted sources and trusted products which are then intimated to the vendor concerned and the applicant TSPs (Telecom Service Providers) to make their procurements," says the note issued by the National Security Council Secretariat.
In a bid to address growing security concerns, the government decided in December 2020 to take control of equipment procurement by service providers. This is also seen as a way to bar Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE from active participation in the Indian telecom industry.
"The concerns regarding inimical activities by various state and non-state actors to compromise telecom networks are shared by several other countries. In order to address these concerns, several countries have already taken significant steps, specially with regard to sourcing of telecom products and services," says the note on the website.
The new way of working
A committee headed by the deputy national security advisor will soon come up with a list of trusted sources for products. However, existing equipment will not be replaced, and ongoing annual maintenance contracts or any update to existing equipment will not be affected.
The new system is likely to lead to greater supervision and governmental control over how telcos award equipment contracts.
The administration might also encourage and recommend the use of gear manufactured by Indian vendors, or equipment manufactured in India. Most of the prominent global vendors, including Nokia and Ericsson, have manufacturing units in India.
Recently, Bharti Airtel awarded a national long distance (NLD) contract to Huawei. Similarly, Vodafone Idea will be working with Huawei to upgrade wireless and wireline networks.
On the new system, CSPs will be required to reveal equipment and vendor details on the portal. The directive will then decide whether to approve or decline that deployment.
"From among the sources declared as 'trusted sources' by the designated authority, those that meet the criteria of the Department of Telecommunications preferential market scheme will be certified as Indian trusted sources," says the website.
The process is also likely to lead to a delay in network deployment. This is significant as Indian telcos will be rolling out their 5G networks in 2022.
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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading