The decision to allow Huawei to participate in 5G trials is now in the political domain with a high-level committee stating that there is nothing adverse against the Chinese company.
At the same time, India needs to take several measures to ensure that no foreign company, not just Huawei, gets a free run of the country’s telecom system while introducing 5G technology in the country.
A high-level committee set up for the purpose has also favoured limited, segment-restricted and closely observed trials when they start towards the year-end.
Experts associated with evaluating the risks of spyware in 5G equipment besides other issues prefer that Indian telecom operators enter into a detailed and exclusive security agreement with all prospective equipment suppliers including Ericsson, Nokia, Siemens besides the two Chinese companies, Huawei and ZTE.
They believe India cannot escape from the responsibility of indigenous development of some critical subsystems to ensure that the risk of installation of a back window or other vulnerabilities in the system are minimised to the extent possible. “The risk is always there. It cannot be eliminated,’’ National Security Advisor Board Member and IIT-Chennai professor V Kamakoti said here recently.
For instance, India must indigenously develop microprocessor, which is the brain of the equipment, since it is the major target of attacks. India already has indigenously developed microprocessors such as ISRO’s Vikram and DRDO’s Anupama.
Besides, two IITs and the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) are developing general purpose microprocessors.
India would also need to evaluate printed circuit boards (PCBs) for vulnerabilities. For this Prof Kamakoti suggests a facility at IIT Kharagpur and Society for Electronic Transaction and Security (SETS), Chennai, on war footing followed by a detailed business plan for their commercial production. In the meanwhile, India should its weight behind framing of international cyber security standards.
Besides these technical issues, telecom experts are divided whether India should rush to embrace 5G technology at this stage when the industry organisation, 3GPP, is yet to finalise standards (called the 17th version). Moreover, there is the question of whether the telecom industry in India has the financial muscle to pay for equipment for a nationwide rollout.
A high-level committee favours limited access to foreign players, segment-restricted and closely observed 5G trials when they start towards the year-end. There are apprehensions that Chinese authorities might spy with the help of Huawei’s equipment―The Tribune