Info-tech

Help us foot security bill, GSM players tell Govt

Thomas K. Thomas New Delhi | Updated on June 09, 2011

DoT has asked the GSM operators to set up a system that will enable security agencies to pinpoint any subscriber within 50 meters of the base station.

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Compliance with new norms will drill a $5-b hole





GSM operators have told the Government that they should be compensated for bearing the cost of implementing the new import security norms notified on Wednesday. The mobile operators have sought fiscal benefits, including lower revenue share for spectrum usage and decreased contribution to the Universal Services Obligation.

The new security rules for import of telecom gear, issued by the Department of Telecom (DoT), requires operators to invest in a number of facilities such as setting up equipment testing labs and location-based services. The operators will have to cough up as much as $5 billion in order to comply with the latest regulation.

“While we recognise that this is a matter of national security, the Government should also help us in balancing out the costs involved in implementing it. We have suggested a number of things, including reducing the USO contribution from 5 per cent at present to 1 per cent, or reducing some of the levies. This will enable us to reinvest the money into upgrading our network,” Mr Rajan S. Mathews, Director-General, Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI), told Business Line.

The new norms require operators to create facilities for monitoring all intrusion by foreign spy agencies and report the same to DoT. Operators are required to set up such facilities within 12 months. “Security is a matter for Government to deal with and if the onus is being put on the operators, then there has to be some form of compensation,” Mr Mathews added. DoT will impose a penalty of Rs 50 crore if any security breach is found on the operator's network.

The policy comes after security agencies raised concerns about the volume of telecom equipment being imported into the country. The security agencies are worried that foreign agencies can embed spyware in key equipment and then use it to snoop into the network or even control it remotely.

Initially, the DoT had asked operators to sign a stringent agreement with the equipment suppliers, which imposed a number of conditions, including making it mandatory for vendors to submit source codes. When vendors opposed signing such an agreement, the DoT revised its position to issue a new set of rules on Tuesday.

While the latest policy has done away with several of the stringent measures from the equipment vendor point of view, it has put the onus on operators. The biggest concern for the operators is the law concerning location-based services. DoT has asked the operators to set up a system that will enable security agencies to pinpoint any subscriber within 50 meters of the base station.

“A similar rule is in force in other countries, including the US, where the burden is divided between cellular, fixed and other telecom companies. In India, most of the cost will have to be borne by mobile operators since other networks are not as big in terms of coverage,” Mr Mathews said.

> tkt@thehindu.co.in

Published on June 01, 2011

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