[security infowatch] India's increasingly rigorous telecom equipment security procedures could be one of key business agendas of US President Barack Obama, during his November visit.
According to sources, the US government held an emergency meeting in Washington in the last 48 hours with vendors on this issue, displaying the level of discomfort of US firms with the Indian government's handling of its perceived security risks surrounding telecom equipment sourced from foreign vendors.
Equipment manufacturers and software providers are largely in consensus that the current system is ill conceived , leaving firms like Cisco, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft , Intel, HP, Alcatel-Lucent , Ericsson, Nokia-Siemens , Juniper, and others badly scarred.
This is the fallout of the Indian government's imposition of procedural restrictions without any open, transparent consultation process with the industry. Further, the engagement has shifted from the DoT to the home ministry for the first time, which is interpreted as an abdication by DoT of its direct responsibility. The correct course would have involved the DoT referring the matter to Trai before amending the licences. Trai itself, also failed to issue a consultation paper in this matter sumo moto, indicating all round failure in governance.
Global firms believe the current system is at variance with international best practice and needs to be brought under the US-India Information and Communications Technology (ICT) dialogue. They fear that this flawed procedure will influence procurement first in other sectors and later in other countries which could become an insurmountable problem for them.
Trouble began in December 2009 when the DoT issued amendments in telecom licences , mandating prior security clearance before ordering equipment/software for deployment. The trigger for this was national security concerns in the wake of growing usage of price competitive Chinese equipment in telecom networks. Overnight , licence conditions were changed in disregard of the established legislative process of consulting Trai and holding industry-wide consultation. This brought telecom procurement to a screeching halt. Piecemeal industry consultations met with negligible success with DoT shifting the onus to MHA and vice versa.
India's telecom equipment security may be key agenda during Obama visit