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BSNL to award Huawei contract for IP network upgrade

Contract win for Chinese telecom equipment vendor has sparked security concerns, but state-owned telco asserts that it followed security guidelines during the procurement process.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Indian telco BSNL is reportedly ready to award Huawei Technologies the contract to expand its national communications network, despite triggering security concerns similar to those highlighted by the United States and Europe.

Citing unnamed BSNL executives, Economic Times reported Tuesday that the upgraded network will be capable of handling data, voice and video traffic. It will also carry sensitive personal information of Indian citizens for various broadband initiatives such as the national optic fiber network and the Aadhar initiative.

BSNL Chairman and Managing Director RK Upadhyay did not comment on the security implications of awarding Huawei the contract, but told the Economic Times it adheres to strict security guidelines in its procurement processes as instituted by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

"BSNL, in all its procurements, follows security guidelines issued by DoT [and] this process is also in accordance with the company's procurement manual," Upadhyay said. Besides, BSNL did not have many choices as Huawei and ZTE were the only bidders to upgrade its IP (Internet protocol) core network.

The Indian government has yet to make a public stand following reports by the United States and European Commission detailing security threats purportedly posed by Huawei and ZTE due to their alleged links with the Chinese military. However, sources in India's communications ministry said there is already pressure to keep Chinese telecom vendors out of sensitive projects on grounds of national security, the report added.

Huawei and ZTE as well as the Chinese government have dismissed the allegations by the U.S. Last week, ZTE announced it will invest another US$30 million in the U.S., reflecting its long-term commitment to the market.

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