Indian PM to DoT: Reduce security risk from telecom gear imports

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The Indian prime minister’s office has recently sought an update from the Department of Telecom about the steps taken to tackle the security issues arising from the importing of telecom equipment.

In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P. Chidambaram last week, the Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association said that depending too much on foreign companies for India’s telecom infrastructure leaves the country more vulnerable to security threats.

While inaugurating the India Telecom Summit two days before the association’s letter, Singh expressed concern over large imports of telecom equipment and said that there was an urgent need to give impetus to the domestic research and development and manufacturing in the telecom sector, given the sector’s growth potential.

“A thriving telecom manufacturing industry would have a large positive impact on many other elements of the electronics manufacturing value chain, apart from generating other benefits like additional employment. I hope the deliberations in this conference will focus attention on how to promote R&D and manufacturing capabilities in the telecom sector in our country,” he had said.

Singh’s office sought suggestions from the telecom department last year for addressing security concerns. The DoT’s suggestions include:

  • DoT has noted that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had come up with license amendments requiring service operators to use network elements that comply with relevant Indian or International Security Standards. The practice of testing by any international lab or agency was to last until March 31, 2011, DoT stated. The certification was to be done by India-based authorized agencies or labs from April 2013.
  • The telecom department also said telecom operators had been asked by TRAI for status reports on security audits conducted on their networks by Oct. 30.

In  addition, a pilot lab project at the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru to develop standards, procedures and tools for testing telecom equipment is not going as well as planned. The IISC Bengaluru had told DoT in a recent communique that “it had completed its slated objectives, and cannot do anything further in this project.”

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