April 17, 2021 8:26 am
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Telcos plan to seek NCSC blueprint over ‘trusted’ product from Chinese suppliers

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Following the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) new guidelines for telco asking them to use network equipment only from “trusted sources” from June 15, the telecom giants and network vendors plan to seek the National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC) blueprint over the use of equipment from Chinese suppliers Huawei and ZTE — without exception — will be outside the list of ‘trusted’ products.

The DoT’s recent guidelines are seen as India’s first official step to keep both the Chinese companies out of India’s telecom expansion, including rollouts.

Telcos and network vendors will seek further clarity on whether Huawei and ZTE will be outside the government’s list of trusted network vendor sources on security grounds. As the Indian vendors plan to expand their offering they look at a long term stable policy in terms of Chinese suppliers that could be certified and deemed as trusted products for future 4G and 5G network deployment.

The NCSC is the new designated authority that oversees telecom equipment procurements.

Telcos and network vendors will urge the NCSC for the definition of “trusted sources” for network equipment and to provide a road map on how trusted network products would be identified with the associated security parameters.

Indications are that the Cellular Operators Association of India will write to the NCSC seeking an early meeting. The association represents Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea and global network vendors such as Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s .

Telecom companies also want both the NCSC and DoT to clarify the applicable conditions and supporting documents that telcos would need to meet/submit to procure network equipment certified as ‘trusted,’ regardless of whether it’s core equipment, radio access or transport systems.

The DoT, while amending the telco permits, earlier said that the government, through NCSC, has the right to impose conditions for the procurement of telecom equipment on grounds of defence or matters directly or indirectly related to national security.

Telcos will also need the NCSC’s permission to upgrade existing networks using equipment not designated as trusted products. Airtel and Vi have contracts with Chinese vendors. Besides Huawei and ZTE, Nokia and Ericsson supply networks to Airtel and Vi, while South Korea’s Samsung is Jio’s supplier.

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