5G: India keeps Chinese firms away from telecom equipment market

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The Indian government on Monday ordered telecom businesses to only purchase devices from “trusted sources” for network expansion or upgrades, dealing a severe blow to Chinese telecom equipment manufacturers. A statement tightening the rules for telecom licences was released on Monday by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT). The action is intended to stop Chinese suppliers like Huawei and ZTE from giving Indian telecom carriers equipment for the impending 5G services.

“With effect from 15th June 2021, the licensee shall only connect trusted products in its network and also seek permission from designated authority for upgradation or expansion of existing Network utilizing the telecommunication equipment not designated as trusted products,” reads the DoT notification. 

However, “These directions will not affect ongoing annual maintenance contracts or updates to existing equipment already inducted into the network as on the date of effect,” it added.

“Designated authority may also notify a list of designated sources from whom no procurement can be done. Procedure for inclusion of telecommunication equipment in the list of trusted sources will be issued,” the notice added.

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The National Cyber Security Coordinator is the “designated authority,” and it is responsible for notifying trustworthy products as well as the equipment categories for which the security standards relating to trusted sources apply.

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The government made it clear that these guidelines won’t have an impact on continuing annual maintenance agreements or software upgrades for already-owned equipment. The DoT modified the telecom licencing requirements in 2021 and added “defence” and “national security” as requirements for the acquisition of reliable telecom equipment. The designated authorities may then request telecom businesses to stop using products that are deemed dangerous. The word “expansion” was added to the licence conditions in the most recent notification by the DoT.

Chinese tech giants Huawei and ZTE have not yet finished the documentation necessary to request clearance from “trusted sources.” Due to security concerns, a number of nations, notably the US, the UK, and Sweden, have prohibited operators from using Huawei-made equipment. Huawei has been accused of spying for the Chinese government by nations like Canada.

(With inputs from agencies)



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