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Telcos must get DoT approval for gear buys
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In a move primarily aimed at keeping a watch on Chinese telecom equipment vendors, the Department of Telecom has made it mandatory for mobile operators to take Government approval before purchasing any gear.

The DoT has included the order in the operator's licence conditions to make it legal.

The Directive issued on December 3 is, however, applicable even if an operator buys equipment from non-Chinese vendors such as Ericsson and Nokia Siemens.

Once the operator puts in an application for approval it will have to wait for 30 days before the equipment can be purchased. If the DoT does not raise any objections, the operator is free to sign the purchase deal any time after the 30-day period.

Though the DoT order does not single out the Chinese vendors, officials said that the new rule will enable the Government to get details of the equipment being brought into the country and also keep a tab on vendor activities.

“For example, the Government could ask the operator to let security agencies check for malware or spyware in case the equipment is brought from Chinese vendors. The Government can also ask the operator to cancel the deal,” said a senior official.

‘Intrusive'

But mobile operators are not too happy with the change in their licence conditions and are considering the move intrusive. “As it is there are so many clearances required to be taken by operators, this one will add to it. This could delay the roll-out plans of operators especially if the Government raises an objection or even if it says that the the purchase order is being looked into. This may even force the players to to play it safe by not opting for Chinese partners and avoid being scanned by the DoT,” said an industry representative.

DoT defence

However, DoT officials said that the decision to introduce the rule was taken after a meeting with the operators on August 28. “The security agencies wanted to impose a complete ban on Chinese vendors. Since this was opposed to by the mobile operators, we had to bring an alternative mechanism to keep a check on our telecom networks,” said a DoT official.

Operators are not in favour of banning the Chinese vendors as it gives them a cheaper option vis-a-vis Ericsson and Nokia Siemens.

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