‘Trusted sources’: Government to amend telecom licence norms this week

S Ronendra Singh New Delhi | Updated on March 09, 2021

Telcos to face ₹50 crore fine if they don’t abide by the new rules   -  Getty Images/iStockphoto

It’s yet unclear if Chinese firms will be allowed to participate

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is expected to come out with amendments to Telecom License norms for procuring equipment within this week. But, whether Chinese companies like Huawei or ZTE will be allowed to participate or not in the projects as part of its implementation, especially after the recently acquired spectrum by telecom service providers (TSPs), is not clear yet.

“The amendment to implement the directive on Trusted Sources is expected in the next few days. The directive will be implemented from April,” a senior government official told BusinessLine. However, the official remained non-committal on the issue of Chinese players.

The Cabinet in December had approved setting up of a National Security Committee, which will list ‘trusted and non-trusted’ telecom equipment/ devices by vendors (like Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, Huawei and ZTE) that Telecom Service Providers could tap. If the telcos do not abide by the new rules, then they would attract a fine of ₹50 crore on each circle.

Ensuring national security

“Considering the need to ensure India’s national security, the Cabinet has accorded approval for the National Security Directive on the Telecommunications sector. Under the provisions of this directive, in order to maintain the integrity of the supply chain security, the government will declare a list of trusted sources, trusted products for the benefit of TSPs,” Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Telecommunications and IT had said in December.

To be covered under this directive and methodology to designate, trusted products will be devised by the designated authority, who is the National Cyber Security coordinator. TSPs are required to connect new devices which are designated ‘trusted’ products. The designated authority will make its determination, based on approval of a Committee headed by the Deputy National Security Advisor.

The government had indicated that a list of designated sources, from whom ‘no procurement’ can be done, may also be created. The present directive does not envisage the mandatory replacement of the existing equipment already inducted into the networks of TSPs.

However, it was clear that the directive will also not affect ongoing annual maintenance contracts or updates to existing equipment already inducted in the network as on date of effect of the directive. From among the sources declared as ‘trusted source’ by the designated authority, those who meet the criteria of DoT preferential market access scheme, will be certified as ‘India trusted sources’, Prasad had explained.

The National Security Committee on Telecom will also take measures to increase use of equipment from such Indian trusted manufacturers. Norms for enhanced supervision and effective control by TSP will be issued by the designated Authority.

Published on March 08, 2021

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