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Latest telecom licensing amendment to further impact Huawei, ZTE

The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has further tightened telecom license conditions, mandating operators to use equipment from only from vendors with ‘trusted sources’ approval for network expansion as well, besides upgradation.

“With effect from 15th June 2021, the licensee shall only connect trusted products in its network, and also seek permission from designated authority for upgradation or expansion of existing network utilising the telecommunication equipment not designated as trusted products,” the telecom department said in its latest amendment, uploaded on its website on Monday.

The word ‘expansion’ has been added to the license conditions, published on the DoT website on Monday.

The latest amendment is being seen as a step to close a loophole in the procurement rules and completely stop Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE from providing telecom gear to Indian telcos for not just upgradation but also for expansion purposes, say industry executives.

They added that some telcos were awarding contracts to the two Chinese vendors, under the guise of ‘expansion’ of network, which wasn’t covered.

“Now, telcos can’t secure telecom hardware now through any route from vendors without trusted sources approval. However, software upgradation is allowed,” a senior telco executive said on the condition of anonymity.

The government said that the latest changes will not affect ongoing annual maintenance contracts (AMC) or updates to existing equipment already inducted in the network as on date of effect, or June 15, 2021. For example, a faulty Huawei router and be replacing by another one, not additional router can be deployed.

Since November 2021, Huawei and ZTE’s European, US and Indian rivals have secured trusted sources approval and are receiving trusted products’ approvals to supply network equipment on a case-to-case basis. But Huawei and ZTE have yet to complete paperwork to seek trusted sources approval, India’s national cybersecurity coordinator Rajesh Pant previously told ET, virtually ruling out the two from India’s next generation network rollout plans.

Companies need to get the trusted sources tag, and their equipment should be deemed trusted products under India’s new security directive to be able to supply gear to telecom services providers.

The latest DoT move comes amid heightened scrutiny of Chinese technology companies in India. India has been investigating telecom companies like Huawei and ZTE along with handset companies Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo for alleged tax evasion and FEMA violations in the country. The companies have previously denied any wrongdoing.

While India has banned several Chinese origin apps, it hasn’t explicitly barred Huawei and ZTE from operating in India. It has, however, made clear they will have to fulfil new conditions under a security directive, the implementation of which Pant is overseeing. IP PBX News

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