India may take license from Huawei to locally build telecom gear: Cybersecurity chief

India should consider localised manufacturing of telecom gear by providing a license fee to the Chinese Huawei Technologies for the fifth-generation or 5G technology patents, the country’s top Cybersecurity official said.

“We should give a license fee to them (Huawei), and ensure that hardware and software would remain ours, and that’s the best option,” the National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC) chief Lt. Gen Rajesh Pant told ETT, and added that a multi-vendor approach is also one of the alternatives to thwart backdoor apprehensions.

Pant took over from India’s first Cybersecurity chief Gulshan Rai in April last year.

Shenzhen-based Huawei’s founder and chief executive Ren Zhengfei in September last year said that the company was willing to license 5G technology exclusively to the US firm to create a level-playing filed for rivals.

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“We have to see our environment and national security interest, and options such as Make in India,” Pant said, acknowledging that the Chinese company has a maximum number of 5G patents.

Huawei competes with Swedish Ericsson, Finnish Nokia and Chinese ZTE.

Earlier, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) too have echoed similar views and in its recommendations to the government had said that domestic manufacturing of telecom equipment would be strategically decisive.

In December last year, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had allowed the participation of gear maker Huawei in 5G field trials, excluding commercial deployments.

“We can’t give telecom network to a single vendor,” the official added.

Query to Huawei did not elicit any response.

Pant said that the UK, having a source code, charts a different approach towards Shenzhen-based telecom major, and way back in 2010, established the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC).

Meanwhile, in the midst of controversy, the Chinese company offered to provide a source code to the Indian government too, to allay security apprehensions.

In January this year, the UK has allowed Huawei a limited role in building country’s 5G network despite intense pressure from the US, which has been lobbying against the Chinese giant worldwide including India, escalating the matter into a trade war between the US and China.

Following the UK, the European Union (EU) too has issued a security framework for deploying 5G networks without blocking Huawei.

With India’s foray into the next-generation of networks round the corner, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is also coming up with a national cybersecurity strategy this year to strengthen telecom networks.