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China's Trust Deficit

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Huawei, the Chinese telecom gear maker has signed a memorandum of understanding to test its equipments at Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. This should be seen as a positive move. But, paranoia of Chinese origin is being stretched.

Considering that, they are the first telecom equipment vendor to sign such a MoU. Which the government says, is in line with the non-disclosure agreement that companies sign globally with testing labs. So, the onus of keeping secure the details of the equipment and software details of Huawei is with IISc.

Such test details have huge commercial value. Considering it is being done on the insistence of security agencies in the country, should it not be the responsibility of the government security agencies to guard them?  How can the already fund starved educational institutions pay for securing and protecting these test details? Even if one were to argue that IISc has enough funds to manage such activities.  It should be allowed to charge a fee. 

Since, unfortunately, no government agency is willing to take responsibility of keeping the data with IISc secure. Currently, it is the responsibility of this lab at IISc to secure a data that has come for testing. But it should not be a responsibility of an educational institution. Globally such work is funded separately.

Initially IISc lab was asked to test the telecom gears from foreign companies as a pilot project. The assignment was given to them by, Department of Telecommunications, on the suggestion of the Home Ministry and other security agencies in the country. Because, the security agencies were opposed to the use of equipments manufactured in China, especially those not tested in India and by Indian authorities. Detailed design document and internal architecture (both software and hardware), are provided by the telecom companies globally, as they are vital for detailed testing.

On same parlance, the telecom equipment vendors from US and Europe should also get their equipment tested at IISc and sign a MoU. But none of them have come forward yet.

The US and European telecom equipment companies are perhaps missing the bigger picture. More they delay to participate in this exercise of getting their equipments tested; more credence will go to the proactive approach of Huawei, in getting its equipment certified. It assumes more prominence since IISc had also asked the vendors to get their equipment certified by them.

The government has vehemently dismissed that there is no arrangement between IISc and Huawei to develop testing and certifications. However, IISc should be allowed to enter into such an arrangement, which may be commercial in nature. This is one way to keep a check on the equipments manufactured or those deployed in the country.

National Telecom policies have been silent or ambiguous about the testing and certifications of telecom equipments. It is the right opportunity for NTP 2011 to incorporate some clear guidelines on the testing and certification of telecom equipments.

It is important, since the telecom gears at lower cost has been a major attraction amongst the telecom operators. Chinese, certainly have an edge in matter of price. This has been clearly demonstrated by the orders placed by major telecom companies, over the US and European companies, in the recent past.

National security, should no doubt assumes prominence over the commercial transactions. A telecom vendor might be Chinese, US or a European; security of the country has to be paramount over all considerations.