Bangalore: Indian government has issued a directive to global telecom gear makers like Nokia Siemens, Ericsson, Alcatel-Lucent and others which have mobile networks of cellphone companies in the country to hire only Indian engineers. "The operation and maintenance of telecom networks should be entirely by Indian engineers and dependence on foreign engineers should be minimal or nil within a period of two years," the communications ministry said in a notification posted on its website. The government said it would amend licence conditions soon to add the new norms, according to Economic Times.
Communications ministry officials said new rules were drafted, after the government agreed to demands by intelligence agencies to tighten security norms for the industry that is witnessing an influx of foreign companies and executives.
The networks of India's largest phone firms - Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications, Vodafone, Tata Tele and Idea - are being managed by either Sweden's Ericsson, Finland-based Nokia Siemens, China's Huawei or Paris-headquartered Alcatel-Lucent. Reliance Communications has outsourced its GSM network management to China's Huawei while Loop Telecom has tied up with another Chinese firm, ZTE, for its GSM rollout across India. The directive also adds that all foreign gear makers will have to manufacture core telecom equipment locally or mandatorily transfer technology to Indian manufacturers within a three-year period.
"In case of non-compliance of the transfer of technology clause, the vendor/service provider shall be penalised. Criminal proceedings would also be started in this case," the directive said.
The home ministry has repeatedly warned that equipment vendors may install back-door entries, remote logic facilities and also design Trojan horses in networks and hardware they sell to telcos here. This could be used to remotely bring down the network or to monitor the voice and data traffic on it, security agencies have said. The agencies are particularly concerned about Chinese vendors such as Huawei and ZTE.