The government has amended the rules for telco licences, mandating that equipment can only be purchased from sources trusted by the National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC)
On Wednesday, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) issued an amendment to the country’s telco licences, requiring the operators to only use equipment from ‘trusted sources’ in their networks.
“With effect from June 15, the licensee shall only connect ‘trusted products’ in its network and also seek permission from the Designated Authority for upgradation of existing network utilising the telecom equipment not designated as trusted sources,” said the DoT amendment.
The Designated Authority, in this case, will be the NCSC, who are set to compile a list of companies with whom business is restricted.
This move should come as no real surprise. Tensions between India and China have been simmering for the last year, culminating in a deadly border clash last year in which numerous soldiers from both countries lost their lives. More recently, India has faced numerous cyber attacks, reportedly from China, further souring their relationship and encouraging the creation of tighter telecoms controls.
While not banning Chinese companies from their telecoms infrastructure directly, the Indian government last year chose instead to impose restrictions on bidders in public procurement from countries that share a direct land border with India, citing national security concerns. With spectrum considered a national resource, these restrictions are largely expected to extend to the nation’s telcos. By December, the government said it would be compiling a list of ‘trusted sources’ for telecoms operators.
India recently completed its latest 4G auction, raising almost $11 billion, with Reliance Jio purchasing almost $8 billion-worth of spectrum for 4G expansion and upgrading. The new rules imposed by the government will ensure that ‘untrusted’ Chinese vendors play no part this expansion.
The same will presumably be true for 5G. The regulator has previously told the telcos to begin 5G trials provided they did not use Chinese equipment, so in many ways this amendment is the natural next step to squeezing Chinese firms out of the national infrastructure.
At the start of the year, India’s communications and IT minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, was urging the nation’s telcos to use domestic telecoms equipment for their networks, particularly for the core.
“The core of the network should be Indian,” he said.
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