Is the Chinese gear ban imminent in India?

The National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC), the government body that shortlists trusted procurement sources for Indian telcos, has communicated the criteria it uses to telcos and vendors.

While several private service providers and vendors attended the high-level meeting, Chinese gear makers Huawei and ZTE were conspicuous by their absence, according to media reports.

Various foreign and domestic vendors were there, including Nokia, Ericsson, Tejas, Samsung, Ciena, Qualcomm, Intel, AMD, C-DoT and VNL.

Over the past few months, there was speculation in India that Chinese vendors might make it to the list.

However, this development doesn't bode well. Huawei and ZTE will not be able to participate in any 5G business in India if they are not included on the list of trusted sources.

Measure twice

The operators now need to provide details of planned equipment purchases.

NCSC will use this information to decide whether the service provider can go ahead with the purchase, dependent on the vendor being included on the trusted source list. A no procurement list is likely to also be published.

It is not clear what criteria the NCSC will use, and the process will likely lead to a delay in procuring gear. The organization has sought feedback from telcos and vendors about the process.

The new rules will come into force on June 15, however, the beta version of the website is likely to go live on April 15.

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The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) recently mandated telcos procure network gear only from trusted sources, to prevent Chinese vendors from participating in the Indian market, it is believed.

Tensions on the India-China border in 2020, and the recent attack by Chinese hackers, as well as security concerns, contributed to this stance.

While the Indian government has not barred Chinese vendors, it has undertaken measures to make it challenging for them to operate in country.

Despite this, there is support for China in India. Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have recently handed over some business to Huawei. Telcos are asking the government to clarify whether they can purchase gear from the Chinese vendors or not.

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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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