In view of national security concerns, the Department of Telecommunications has amended telecom licence agreements and made mandatory for equipment suppliers to share design, codes and supply chain details. The government has made it clear to all telecom licence holders, including state-run BSNL and MTNL, to share all details; and has also announced huge penalty charges on defaulters. In addition, the DoT has even allowed inspection of their manufacturing unit for the same.
“The licensor (DoT) shall have the power to allow inspection, analysis and use by the competent experts designated by the government, the hardware and software designs/codes deposited in the escrow accounts to prevent/detect any security hazards, malware and traps at any time or for any criminal investigation purpose,” the DoT said in its document.
In the event, any security breach is detected at later stage after deployment/installation of equipment, licensee would have to pay Rs 50 crore penalty, while another penalty of 100 percent of the contract value would be levied by telecom equipment suppliers.
According to DoT, the licensee will also work towards a phased plan to take over the maintenance of the equipment locally — entirely by Indian engineers and dependence on foreign engineers will be minimum or almost nil within a period of two years.
The new amendment comes in the wake of concerns being raised by the Indian security agencies regarding the core telecom equipment imported from China. In December 2009, DoT had asked telecom service providers to seek security clearance before placing an order for telecom equipment; but still many orders for Chinese equipment manufacturers have been pending with the department since the last six months.