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India gets paranoid about foreign tech

Offshore telecoms kit banned from broadband, own fab on agenda to secure military kit

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India’s national security paranoia reached new levels this week as reports emerged that all foreign vendors have been banned from supplying networking kit for its national broadband project, while the government wants to produce its own chips for use in sensitive installations.

The government has previously decided not to allow China’s Huawei and ZTE to tender for its national fibre optic network (NFON) project, due to the national security concerns raised last November by a US House Intelligence Committee report.

New Delhi has now gone a stage further by excluding the likes of Alcatel Lucent, Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks from the list of vendors eligible to supply the Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) infrastructure selected for the roll-out, Economic Times reported.

Domestic vendors including Sai Systems, United Telecoms and ITI now have the chance to battle over the lucrative contract overseen by the government-backed Bharat Broadband Network (BBNL).

"We will comply with the Department of Telecommunication’s network security guidelines and norms to promote domestic manufacturing of network gear and will invite bids by mid-February,” a BBNL exec told the paper.

The unusual decision comes as India looks to harden its national digital security architecture in a bid to better protect critical infrastructure from attack.

A key part of the plans, which have been approved in principle by the government’s National Security Council, is to set up a silicon wafer fab to help the country become self-sufficient in chip-making, according to local news service IANS.

The government is planning the country’s first chip-making facilities at an estimated cost of Rs.25,000 crore (£2.9bn) because it’s worried about the risk of potential security vulnerabilities in imported chips.

Speaking at a public engagement in Bangalore, national security advisor Shivshankar Menon apparently revealed that the chips from India's own fab would find a home in hardware used for space, nuclear, military and other sensitive applications. ®

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