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Anger mounts at one-time gear supply waiver for homegrown companies

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In Short:

The domestic telecom industry is upset about the one-time exemption given by NCSC to import telecom gear in urgent situations. This is seen as a way to bypass the ‘Make in India’ policy and fuel imports. Companies are importing cheaper equipment from restricted countries, leading to concerns about national security. Vendors are manipulating the policy to win tenders and make profits. The industry is calling for measures to prevent misuse of exemptions.

Telecom Industry Raises Concerns Over One-Time Exemption for Importing Gear

The domestic telecom industry has expressed concerns over the one-time exemption granted by the National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC) for importing telecom gear in specific scenarios. This exemption has been criticized for potentially undermining the ‘Make in India’ policy by promoting imports.

RK Bhatnagar, director general of Voice of Indian Communication Technology Enterprises (Voice), which represents companies like Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and Tejas Networks, among others, stated that the one-time exemption strategy is being used by bidders and original equipment makers (OEMs) to supply cheaper gear from restricted countries.

Concerns Raised by Domestic Telecom Companies

NCSC’s decision to allow companies to import products under the one-time exemption for network rollout and expansion, even after qualifying in tenders with locally-made gear, has sparked controversy. Voice has urged the government to address the issue, highlighting the risks associated with such practices.

Bhatnagar emphasized that the misuse of one-time exemptions poses a serious threat to national security and should be curtailed unless the product is actively evaluated by NCSC to ensure compliance with security standards.

Industry Calls for Policy Revisions

Industry stakeholders argue that the current practices favoring one-time exemptions lead to unfair advantages for certain vendors, encouraging imports from restricted sources and creating an imbalance in the market. Measures should be taken to prevent the manipulation of policies and promote domestic manufacturing.

NCSC’s decision to grant exceptions has drawn criticism from industry leaders like Rajesh Tuli of Coral Telecom, who emphasized the need for corrective actions to address the growing reliance on imports, especially from China.

Importance of Local Manufacturing

Industry experts, including Paritosh Prajapati of GX Group, stress the importance of supporting companies investing in local manufacturing units. They believe that one-time exemptions undermine the efforts towards self-reliance and market access for domestic players.

In line with the government’s ‘Atmanirbharta’ initiative, telecom gear makers are investing in expanding local production facilities to strengthen India’s manufacturing capabilities and reduce reliance on imports.

National Security Measures

The introduction of the “trusted telecom portal” by the government aims to enhance national security in the sector by mandating telecom carriers to use equipment from authentic and trusted sources only. This initiative is expected to mitigate security risks associated with gear supplied by Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE.

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