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Proposal to bar foreign engineers from running telcos networks

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Amid debate over security concerns relating to telecom equipments by Chinese vendors, the government is proposing to make it mandatory that only Indian engineers would operate and maintain the networks.

The government is proposing to amend license of (TSPs) to incorporate a condition that the dependence on foreign engineers for maintaining telecom networks in the country would be reduced to nil in two years.

As per the proposed amendment, the Department of Telecom (DoT) has said "The licensee (telecom firm) should work towards a phased plan to take over the maintenance of the equipment locally... The operations and maintenance of networks should be entirely by Indian engineers and dependence on foreign engineers should be minimal and or almost nil within a period of two years from the date of this amendment."

The Government had earlier asked the operators to take security clearance before buying any key telecom gear. The telecom operators had been complaining about the strict rule which forced the DoT to be very selective in giving approvals for equipment purchase.

The new amendments also made room for an Escrow deposit arrangement between the equipments suppliers and the telecom service providers wherein the suppliers shall keep all the information and documentation in relation to the supplies.

The informations would include "without limitations, in respect to hardware, software, all source code, high level designs, Detail design documents, listings and programmers note," it added.

The service providers shall have the right to use the escrow information, after its release, in order to use and maintain (including to upgrade) the software, to modify or have modified the software and to licence such modified software to or have it maintained by third parties.

However, it is yet to be ascertained that the new amendments is going to make it easier for foreign equipment vendors, specially Chinese vendors to supply gears to Indian operators.

The proposed amendment will also allow the telcos to allow third party (other than employee and servants of telecom service provider) to supply equipments and have access to the network only after a putting in place a legal agreement between the two with regard to security issues.

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