The government has included defence and national security as key factors in purchasing telecom equipment while amending on Wednesday (March 10) the licensing conditions for telecom companies, media reports said.
The decision of the Department of Telecommunications would make it difficult for Chinese vendors to supply their wares in the future. Chinese manufacturers mainly include Huawei and ZTE.
Chinese telecom gear maker Huawei in the past has clashed with the Canada and US authorities. The latter has alleged that it did not comply with its cybersecurity and privacy laws, leaving the country and the citizens vulnerable to espionage.
The new norms also could also mean that the Chinese companies would not be able to use equipment from non-trusted sources for the setting up or expanding of the network to utilise the 4G spectrum that they bought in the recently concluded spectrum auctions.
A notification said that from June 15, telcos can use telecom products only from trusted sources in their networks and must take permission from the designated authority if they plan to upgrade their existing network using equipment that has not been designated as a trusted product.
An Indian Express report said almost 30 per cent of Bharti Airtel’s existing network comprises Chinese telecom equipment, it is as much as 40 per cent for Vodafone Idea. State-run telcos Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and MTNL too have equipment from Chinese vendors.
The Cabinet Committee on Security late last year had cleared the formation of a new National Security Directive on the telecommunication sector with intent to classify telecom products and their sources under the “trusted” and “non-trusted” categories.
Many experts have attributed the recent incidents of hacking of important Indian infrastructure entities allegedly by Chinese hackers to the hastened government response. A New York Times report recently came out with a report based on research by American cybersecurity firm Recorded Future, titled ‘China-Linked Group RedEcho Targets the Indian Power Sector Amid Heightened Border Tensions’. The study elaborated on a “campaign conducted by a China-linked threat activity group, RedEcho, targeting the Indian power sector”.
It identified a dozen critical infrastructure entities in India that could have been targeted.