India officially launches ‘trusted telecom’ portal to bar untrusted companies

trusted portal
Image by urfingus | Bigstockphoto

India has officially launched the ‘trusted telecom’ portal, signaling the coming into effect of the National Security Directive on Telecommunication Sector (NSDTS), which makes it mandatory for Indian telecom operators to use trusted network equipment from “trusted sources” from June 15. 

India’s telecom department, also known as the DoT, has already made necessary amendments to the license conditions for the provision of telecommunication services by the country’s telecom operators. 

Through this move, the Indian government is aiming to achieve enhanced control over nationwide telecom networks. The move is likely to directly impact Chinese telecom gear vendors, especially Huawei and ZTE that are already going through heightened security across the world.

The National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC), which is the designated authority, will determine the inclusion of a vendor as a trusted source of trusted products. It has reportedly finalised the criteria for identifying trusted sources and has accordingly conveyed this to the telcos. 

The Department of Telecommunications on Wednesday asked Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to appoint a nodal officer who will interact with the NCSC and will be authorised to access the new ‘Trusted Telecom Portal.’

As per the Indian government, ‘trusted products’ are products whose critical components and the products themselves are sourced from ‘trusted sources.’

In an official circular, the government said that the Indian telcos will be provided access to log into the ‘Trusted Telecom Portal’ where they can indicate the telecom products and the vendor from whom they intend to procure the products. “The details of these vendors, their products, their critical components and their sources are then populated into the portal by the TSPs [telecom service providers] and respective vendors who will also be provided access to the portal,” it added.

The NCSC will make an assessment of the vendors and the sources of the components to determine trusted Sources and trusted products which will be then intimated to the vendor concerned and the applicant telecom operator to make their procurements.

The new directive, however, does not mandate replacement of existing equipment already deployed by telcos. Additionally, the directive will also not affect ongoing Annual Maintenance Contracts (AMC) or updates to existing equipment already deployed in the network. “Hence no disruption to the existing networks will be created due to this Directive,” it said.

Notably, India’s second and third largest telcos, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea had already awarded fresh expansion contracts worth $40-$60 million to Huawei. While Airtel’s contract was for its national long distance optical transport network, Vodafone Idea had placed orders for radio and transport network expansion.  

Media reports suggest that these contracts were finalised in March just before the Indian government amended telecom licenses for operators, mandating them to use equipment only from trusted sources from June 15, 2021.

While Huawei and ZTE are willing to participate in the country’s upcoming 5G networks, the Department of Telecommunications didn’t approve their 5G trial applications with Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio. Both Jio and Airtel have switched on their 5G field trials networks in Mumbai and Delhi, respectively. 

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