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Accelerating domestic output of telecom gear in strategic interest: TRAI

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Amid wide-scale concerns over use of Chinese gear in telecom networks, TRAI Chairman R S Sharma has said that India must accelerate domestic manufacturing of communication equipment for “strategic” reasons.

While the country has become a manufacturing powerhouse for mobile handsets, the same must also be done for telecom equipment which form the “central nervous system” of sensitive and strategically-important telecom networks, Sharma told PTI.

He added that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had earlier given its detailed recommendations on promoting local telecom equipment manufacturing.

Sharma’s comments assume significance in the backdrop of growing clamour around the world, as also in India, against the use of Chinese equipment in networks over security concerns.

India is evaluating whether Huawei and ZTE should be kept out of upcoming 5G trials, though a final decision on the issue is yet to come.

“It is in strategic interest of our country that we accelerate the process of manufacturing telecom equipment, domestically. TRAI has already given detailed recommendation on it, sometime back,” Sharma said.

Asked if a renewed push for indegenious manufacturing in telecom is all the more important given the red-flags around Chinese-made equipment, he said, “Definitely. Certainly, it is important. Strategically, it is important.”

“We had given our recommendation, where we said that it is in strategic interest of our country to have domestic manufacturing of telecom equipment,” he added.

The reason is while handsets are there at the edge of the system, the central nervous system is also extremely important and sensitive piece, and therefore those equipment must be manufactured in the country, Sharma said.

“So we have given our suggestions on what should be done to drive that process,” the TRAI chairman said.

Lauding the measures taken to promote manufacturing of the handsets in the country, he noted that production had reached “massive scale” and India must now build on that success in indegenous telecom gear.

“We are doing handset manufacturing on a very massive scale, and having tasted that success, I am sure we can always build an ecosystem for manufacturing of domestic telecom equipment and we can become a global leader,” Sharma said.

India has banned 106 apps with links to China for being prejudicial to the sovereignty, integrity and defence of the country. Also, state-owned BSNL has cancelled a multi-crore tender for 4G telecom network upgrade after the government asked the firm not to use any Chinese equipment.

Sharma declined to make specific comments on the recent app ban, but said that overall, digital sovereignty has to be ensured through various policy measures.

“I can say National Digital Communications Policy talks of three areas — connecting India, empowering India in terms of software and third is securing India…and digital sovereignty is one of the stated objectives in NDCP. So digital sovereignty has to be ensured through various policy issues…what is being done is to ensure digital sovereignty,” Sharma said.

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