News Brief

India Considers Replacing Pre-2020 'Non-Trusted' Telecom Gear Following Mandate For 'Trusted, Non-Chinese' Vendors

Swarajya Staff

May 15, 2024, 01:38 PM | Updated 01:35 PM IST

Representative Image
Representative Image

In 2020, the Indian government mandated that telecom service providers should use trusted, non-Chinese vendors for their network equipment. Now, the government is considering replacing 'non-trusted' equipment installed before 2020 that is still in use, as per a report by Livemint.

According to the report, the telecom department might ask service providers like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to review their networks and selectively replace equipment sourced from non-trusted, primarily Chinese, vendors.

This strategy would differ significantly from the US government's 'rip and replace' initiative, which seeks to replace all telecom network equipment regardless of its origin.

“At this stage, we are evaluating the necessary actions based on the information we get from the telcos,” said one of the officials, who requested anonymity.

"We might either implement a rip and repair strategy, or telcos could mitigate risks through active surveillance, conduct a threat assessment, and then replace equipment," he explained.

Earlier this year, the department requested carriers to provide details about non-trusted equipment in their networks, but this information has not yet been received.

Sector experts suggest that Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, which operate legacy networks, would be significantly affected by any initiative to replace older equipment.

They estimate that approximately 20-25 per cent of the gear could be from Chinese vendors, mainly Huawei and ZTE, installed over the past several years.

Before the National Security Directive on Telecommunication Sector was issued in June 2020, Indian vendors used Chinese equipment.

The directive, effective from June 2021, required that telecom equipment must come from 'trusted sources'.

At that time, the directive did not mandate the replacement of existing equipment already integrated into telcos' networks. It also excluded ongoing annual maintenance contracts and updates to existing equipment, thus avoiding any disruption.

Since the directive, all new equipment for networks must be approved by the National Cyber Security Coordinator.

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