The government on Wednesday amended telecom licence norms that will enable it to control the installation of network equipment from non-trusted sources.
With effect from June 15, telecom operators will be required to take permission from the National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC) for up-gradation of existing networks, utilising the telecom equipment not designated as trusted products.
According to the license amendment, the NCSC will be the designated authority that can impose conditions for the procurement of telecom equipment on the grounds of "Defence of India" or matters directly related to national security.
"Designated authority shall notify the categories of equipment for which the security related to Trusted sources are applicable. For the said categories of equipment designated authority shall notify the trusted sources along with the associated telecommunication equipment (trusted products)," according to the amendment.
It will help the government control sourcing of products from China and other non-friendly countries.
The NCSC may also notify a list of designated sources from whom no procurement can be done.
"With effect from June 15, 2021, the licences, shall only connect trusted products in its network and also seek permission from the designated authority for up-gradation of an existing network utilising the telecommunication equipment not designated as trusted products. "However, these directions will not affect ongoing annual maintenance contracts or updates to existing equipment already induced in the network as on date of effect," the amendment notification said.
While the government has not barred procurement of equipment from Chinese companies, it amended the general financial rules (GFR) 2017 to enable the imposition of restrictions on bidders in public procurement from countries that share a land border with India on grounds of defence of India, or matters directly or indirectly related thereto, including national security.
Public companies need to scrap tenders if a qualified bidder is from a country that shares a land border with India, which includes China. J Sagar Associates partner Tony Verghese said that the amendment of the telecom licenses by the DoT regarding the procurement of telecom equipment was an expected move in light of the 5G auctions. "The recent incidents allegedly by Chinese hackers have definitely hastened the process with the government inclined towards a new national strategy to strengthen the country's security.
"Telecom equipment's play a vital role in telecom connectivity and data transfer, which has a direct impact on the national security of India. Therefore, such a policy decision, which definitely impacts significant market players, clearly conveys the government's stand on national security," Verghese said.