India to Test Telecom Equipment for Spyware

Posted June 30th, 2011 at 11:35 am (UTC-5)
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India's government is responding to fears that equipment and software for its booming mobile phone sector could be used to spy on the country and its businesses.

Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal announced Thursday India will build a $11 million facility in Bangalore to test all foreign-made telecommunication products.

Indian regulations already require their country's telecom companies to get security clearance before buying equipment. Sibal said the new facility being designed by the Indian Institute of Science will make it easier to assess the safety risks.

Sibal said Chinese telecom firm Huawei has already agreed to hand over its products for testing. He said other companies will have to do the same.

Officials say there could be fines and other penalties if the testing facility determines that equipment or software is not safe.

India has some 771 million mobile subscribers with 19 million more people signing up for mobile phone service every month.

Last year, India relaxed a ban on imports of telecommunication equipment that had been triggered by fears Chinese-made equipment could give China's intelligence agencies access to India's telecom networks.

Aside from security concerns, India's telecommunications industry has also been rocked by a corruption scandal that may have deprived the Indian government of up to $40 billion in revenues.

Earlier this year Indian police formally filed charges against former Telecom Minister A. Raja and eight other people in connection with the telecom licensing scandal.

The Central Bureau of Investigation said Raja and others conspired to sell mobile phone licenses at cut-rate prices to benefit a few companies. Authorities jailed Raja after he resigned from his post last year.

The Wall Street Journal says current Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal also told reporters Thursday that the government is close to resolving many of the lingering issues facing the scandal-plagued sector, including allocating spectrum and licensing.

Indian officials have been working on a new telecom policy which is expected to be ready by the end of the year.