Govt tightens norms for sourcing telecom gear

The government will identify “trusted” sources of telecom equipment that can be used by India’s cellular operators on their networks as part of the national security directive for the sector approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security.

A list of manufacturers, to be certified as ‘Indian trusted sources’, will be created and the names of the firms whose equipment cannot be used will also be shared, minister for communications, electronics and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Wednesday. Globally, there are five major telecom equipment makers, of which two are Chinese.

“Considering the need to ensure India’s national security, the cabinet has accorded approval for the national security directive on the telecom sector. Under the provisions of this directive, to maintain integrity of the supply chain security, the government will declare a list of trusted sources,” Prasad said.

The directive comes amid security concerns raised against Chinese equipment maker Huawei globally. Earlier this month, the UK government said new installation of Huawei’s 5G gear will be banned from September 2021, as it seeks to phase out all Huawei networks by 2027. The US has also banned Huawei gear till May, citing national security.

The India-China border tension that started in May has fuelled the security concerns. The government has banned more than 200 Chinese apps citing threat to national security.

A ban on the use of Chinese equipment would hit Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Idea Ltd as equipment sold by Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung is relatively expensive and may add to their input cost. Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd does not use Chinese equipment.

While the directive will not mandate replacement of the telecom equipment in use, telcos will have to use devices approved as trusted products by the national security coordinator for new devices, Prasad said.

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