New Delhi: A key hurdle before India’s phone firms and their equipment suppliers in running their businesses has been removed with the Union cabinet allowing remote access to maintain telecom networks from foreign locations.
The decision comes as part of a government decision to allow up to 74% foreign ownership of Indian telecom service companies. The move may lead to cheaper mobile services for consumers, industry insiders said.
Remote access, under which data from a network is taken outside the country to monitor its performance, had become the sole sticking point for approval of increasing the foreign ownership cap from 49% to 74%.
Worried over the prospect of monitoring network data, including phone calls, by foreign entities, security agencies had insisted that network data should not be allowed to be transferred outside India.
Network equipment firms such as Nokia, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent, who had so far been forced to set up captive teams of engineers in the country said the move would help them integrate their local activities with their global operations. Allowing their centres in different parts of the world to support their Indian operations will increase their efficiency, executives at the companies said.
P. Balaji, vice president for marketing and strategy at Ericsson India, the local unit of the world’s largest wireless network equipment vendor, said the company’s units in different countries specializing in different area of network maintenance could be deployed more easily.
”With the new rules, we can mobilize specialists from different parts of the world,” Balaji said in an email interview, adding this could reduce costs for the phone firms in the long-term. Though Nokia, Ericsson and Alcatel-Lucent, the three biggest network equipment vendors in the Indian market, have their own teams of engineers on the ground, telecom operators said not all contingencies were being dealt with by these teams.
Yet, the decision taken by the cabinet on Thursday does not allow data, crucial to diagnosing faults-points on phone network, to be sent to the network vendors; specialized offices abroad due to a ban on the transmission of any information related to the domestic traffic being transmitted overseas.
”Under the old rules, those who wanted to create mischief would still get around the restrictions and send data abroad, but the legitimate usage of the technology for network management was being constrained,” said Alok Shende, head of information, communication and technology practice at the consultant Frost and Sullivan India. This is being corrected in the new regime that has been cleared by the cabinet.