In a move aimed to speed up the launch of third-generation telecom services in the country,the government has decided to fast-track imports of all 3G telecom equipment. The department of telecommunications (DoT) and home ministry have arrived at this decision to ensure that 3G services do not get delayed,particularly since they have paid huge amounts for wireless spectrum. However,with spectrum allocation expected next month,operators have been apprehensive of further delays,thanks to stringent security norms announced last month.
Meanwhile,telecom operators have amended their respective contracts with vendors,making the latter liable for compensating them financially if any spyware is detected and the government penalises them.
Bharti Airtel CEO Sanjay Kapoor had told FE last week that if spectrum is allocated to the company by September as committed and there are no delays in clearing equipment import,the company would start 3G services by December. He had also said that since the industry has invested heavily in 3G and broadband wireless,the government should ensure that there are no delays in rollout due to security-related issues.
However,officials clarified that this would only be an interim measure till security norms are fully reviewed. This essentially means that operators would be free to import equipment,including from Chinese vendors by either submitting the source code to the government-controlled escrow account or giving a self-certification that they do not contain any spyware.
We have decided to fast-track imports of 3G services equipment,for which it is up to the vendors to either submit the design and source codes of the embedded software or provide a self-certification that they do not contain spyware. This is only to ensure that the rollout of 3G services is not delayed till the time the issues are re-examined, said an official. As earlier reported by FE,the prime ministers office (PMO) had asked the DoT and the home ministry to look into industrys concerns in this regard.
Last month,DoT had directed suppliers to share passwords and design details with the government,warning of heavy penalties on operators in case of any security breach.
If any security breach is detected after deployment/installation,the relevant equipment would be taken out of service and a penalty of Rs 50 crore for each purchase order would be imposed on the operator,apart from a penalty of 100% of contract value. The penalty targets operators since they are the licensed entities. The operators,in turn,have entered into back-to-back agreements with vendors to claim the amount in case of any such event.