In a bid to tighten the security of communications network, the Cabinet Committee on Security has announced the National Security Directive for the telecommunication sector.

The directive will mandate service providers to purchase telecom equipment from trusted sources. Under the provisions of the National Security Directive, the government will declare a list of trusted sources and trusted products for installation in the country’s telecom network.

The move could significantly impact Chinese telecom equipment makers like Huawei and ZTE.

According to Ravi Shankar Prasad, minister for telecommunications and electronics and information technology, the methodology to designate trusted products will be devised by the designated authority, the National Cyber Security Coordinator. Telecom service providers are required to connect new devices that are designated trusted products.

Further, he added that the list of the trusted source and product will be decided based on approval of a committee headed by the deputy national security advisor. The committee will consist of members from relevant departments, ministries and will also have two members from the industry and independent experts. The committee will be called the National Security Committee on Telecom. The government will also create a list of designated sources from whom no procurement can be done.

Those that meet the criteria of the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) preferential market access (PMA) scheme will be certified as India trusted sources. The National Security Committee on Telecom will take measures to increase use of equipment from such Indian trusted sources, Prasad said. Further, he added that the DoT will make appropriate modifications in the licence conditions for the implementations of the provisions of the directive. The policy will come into operation after 180 days from the date of approval.

The present directive does not envisage mandatory replacement of the existing equipment already inducted in the network of telecom service providers (TSPs), the minister said. He added that the directive will not affect annual maintenance contracts or updates to existing equipment already inducted in the network as on date of effect of the directive.

According to the Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association (TEMA) of India, the launch of the National Security Directive in the telecom sector to maintain the integrity of supply chain security is a very positive step for the industry. The industry body believes that this is a significant step towards creating an AtmaNirbhar Bharat and for the development of domestic industries. However, it has requested the government to ensure national security aspects and demanded that the existing untrusted products in network be removed over a specified period, as has been done in the USA and UK.