The National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC) has been designated as the apex body in India to scan for any security lapses in the telecom equipment companies and their supply chains. The events from 2018 and beyond in the telecom industry, especially in the United States, have left a bitter taste in the mouth of governments all across the world. Given the due tensions and the especially precarious situation which exists between India and China, there is more stress on the security of the equipment since the majority of it comes from across the Indo-Sino border only. However, the current method which the NCSC has adapted has been proven to be woefully slow and is causing massive breaks in the supply chains for both the vendors and the telecom companies in India as well.
Industry Hit With Multitudes of Problems
India’s telecom industry remains on shaky ground as is. While Vodafone Idea is struggling financially, every other company has got its own set of challenges. In such a condition, the industry needs help from all sides, and the existence of speed-breakers in any area of the industry, has a ripple effect for the entire mass of the telecom fraternity, and that includes consumers as well. Reliance Jio has been able to climb up on the download speed charts, thanks to the deployment of new equipment, and companies like Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are boasting of 5G field trials. While the rest of the world has seen 5G on their phones, India still remains stuck on the 4G networks, with the sight of 5G still far away from the horizon. The absence of required equipment just makes it worse.
The telecom equipment manufacturers from China are obviously at a disadvantage due to security reasons, and because of pricing concerns, the European vendors of the equipment remain on the back footing. In a scenario, where the industry is drained out financially and unable to afford equipment of higher pricing, and the Chinese equipment remains stuck in the supply chain due to delays in approval, the telecom operators of the country are bound to find themselves in a pickle.
The Changes Required in the Certification Process
The verification process for both the verified product and verified supplier remains grossly informal in nature right now. While the Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme of the government is one of the major impetus for the industry, it remains untapped if there are roadblocks such as the ones discussed above. The NCSC should be supplied with the required human resource, along with the setting up of a more robust and reliable standard operating procedure. Until the supply chains remain slow for the provision of telecom equipment, the 5G field trial and both capacity and coverage enhancement are going to remain hit. It is quite probable, while we have domestic troubles regarding the security of the equipment, the same concerns are going to be mirrored across the border as well. In such a situation, to help the telecom industry, the government should act fast to reduce the time required to approve a product and supplier without giving up the due diligence on the process.