Buy equipment from Indian players, govt tells telcos

The telecommunication ministry is believed to have told the chief executive officers of mobile service providers, including Air Tel, Reliance, BSNL and Vodafone, that Chinese telecom products should be barred strictly. Telecom secretary Siddartha Behura, who chaired a meeting convened at the behest of the ministry of home affairs, said service providers should deploy equipment from multiple vendors and reduce dependability on a single supplier.

Minister of State for Telecom Sachin Pilot said the government was looking into security threats from the Chinese telecom equipment makers. “Whatever prudent decision is recommended by the ministries of home affairs and communication and IT, the government will not hesitate to take it, as no government can ever compromise on its internal as well as external security,” Pilot said.

Intelligence agencies have warned that Chinese telecom products could have embedded elements that would enable the telephone company to launch a cyber attack. Though the government barred BSNL from procuring equipment from Chinese companies, there was a demand that this restriction should be extended to private operators.

Private tele-service providers procure GSM equipment from, among others, two Chinese vendors—Huawei and ZTE. Huawei has invested Rs 980 crore in setting up an R&D centre in Bangalore. ZTE and Huawei have an annual turnover of around Rs 12,000 crore from India and they work closely with many private telecom companies in the country.

In the recent Parliament session, several MPs expressed concern over the Chinese manufacturers’ active involvement in supplying equipment to private telephone companies.

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