Domestic telecom gear makers urge govt to review security relaxation given to existing deals

The Union Cabinet earlier this week cleared a proposal to secure telecom infrastructure by designating “trusted source” for the purchase of equipment by service providers.

A total 2,251 MHz of spectrum worth Rs 3.92 lakh crore at reserve price in the 700 MHz, 800 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz, 2100 MHz, 2300 MHz and 2500 MHz bands is being put up for sale.
As per Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal, though the 5G ecosystem is still nascent in the country, the devices coming into India now (as on December), about 4% to 5% of device shipments are already 5G compatible.

Local telecom gear makers’ body TEMA on Friday sought review of the government’s decision to exempt existing deals from the security directive on telecom infrastructure.

The Union Cabinet earlier this week cleared a proposal to secure telecom infrastructure by designating “trusted source” for the purchase of equipment by service providers.

Under this, the government will declare a list of trusted sources and products for installation in the country’s telecom network.

However, there will not be any mandatory replacement of the existing equipment.

The directive also has provisions to classify telecom gear manufactured by domestic players as trusted equipment.

In a statement, the Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association of India (TEMA) pitched for phasing out all non-trusted equipment from the domestic network.

“We request that the government should on priority review its decision that allows use, maintain, and upgrade the existing products from ‘Non trusted’ sources. The national security risks will remain so long as any ‘untrusted product’ remains in the network,” TEMA Chairman Ravi Sharma said.

It also sought stepping up research and development efforts on 5G technology.

“It is critical, especially in the era of 5G, where millions of IoT, M2M products are going to be connected. India should have given a timeline to replace all the ‘untrusted equipment’… similar to the one adopted by the UK and USA, to phase out such suspected equipment in their telecom network,” Sharma said.

Former telecom secretary and TEMA Council on Digital Empowerment Chairman R Chandrashekhar said that mandating the use of only trusted equipment in the future and gradual phasing out of equipment from other sources already present in networks is an essential step to securing the country’s telecom infrastructure.

“Alongside, there is a need to step up R&D in 5G in addition to ramping up the manufacture of telecom equipment under phase manufacturing program and production linked incentive schemes,” he said.

Former national cyber security coordinator Gulshan Rai said it is now the duty of indigenous product manufacturers to enhance the features, reliability and security of their products.

“…A new era will usher in once all the telecom networks in India would be covered under this new directive of the government, irrespective of the telecom firm’s ownership,” TEMA Chairman Emeritus NK Goyal said.

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