The action, finalized by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), will result in a list of trusted government sources and products, which will also change licensing standards for telecommunications companies. Although the government has refrained from specifying which country will be affected, it was clearly targeting India’s aggressive neighbor, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE are subject to scrutiny, and possibly rejection, to avoid covert operations and potential threats to the telecommunications infrastructure.
Huawei counts Airtel, Vodafone-Idea and other corporate customers among its major customers in India, while ZTE is a major supplier of BSNL and other state enterprises.
While this does not affect equipment already deployed, in the future all telecommunications equipment, especially that used for 5G services, will be strictly monitored.
“The methodology for designating trusted products will be designed by the designated authority, the national cybersecurity coordinator. Telecommunications service providers (mobile operators) are required to connect new devices which are designated as trusted products ”, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad said, adding that the policy was designed with the country’s security needs in mind.
Chinese equipment suppliers are already under the scan globally, with countries like Australia, the US and the UK banning their access, especially in the 5G space, while others like Germany are increasing surveillance.
Besides equipment suppliers, some telecom operators who were sourcing products from Huawei and ZTE are also nervous, especially after the government intervened to restrict Chinese products for state-owned companies BSNL and MTNL. .
Some mobile operators are concerned that any further escalation between India and China could result in the end of network support and upgrades from Chinese providers. This can benefit European players such as Nokia and Ericsson, the American Cisco and the South Korean Samsung, in particular with regard to the deployment of 5G services and infrastructures.
In recent months, India has banned the import of equipment from China for use in industries ranging from telecommunications to electricity, citing national security. Some of the bans were motivated by concerns such as spyware or malware – called “malware” – embedded in imported equipment. In addition, widespread actions have been taken against Chinese apps such as TikTok, PubG, UC Browser, WeChat, and CamScanner, most of which have been banned due to national security concerns.
Speaking about the decision, Prasad said, “The trusted source and product list will be decided based on the approval of a committee headed by the deputy national security adviser. The committee will be composed of members of relevant departments and ministries and will also include two members of industry and independent experts. The committee will be called the National Security Committee on Telecoms. ”
The government will create a list of designated sources from which no procurement can be made. “This directive does not envisage the compulsory replacement of existing equipment already integrated into the TSP network”, declared the Minister.
Last year, the government banned imports of Chinese handsets without an International Mobile Equipment Identity Number, or IMEI, again citing security reasons such as using stolen handsets to make terrorist calls or hoaxes. .
A mobile phone’s IMEI number is a 15-digit number unique to each handset. It prevents stolen phones from making calls and allows security agencies to track down a specific user.
Prasad said the directive will not affect annual maintenance contracts or updates to existing equipment already installed in the network on the date the directive enters into force.
To concern Government to ban Chinese telecommunications equipment citing “national security”