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Policy & Regulation
Saturday, June 3, 2023
Budget 2021: Debt-laden telecom sector expects tax reliefs, lower licence fee

According to EY, the industry expects Budget to offer price support in the form of Goods and Service Tax (GST) exemption from regulatory payments such as license fee and spectrum usage charges (SUC)

The cash-strapped telecom industry, which is battling with competitive pricing and Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) dues, has been pinning its hopes on the Union Budget 2021 to offer some breather. According to EY, the industry expects Budget to offer price support in the form of Goods and Service Tax (GST) exemption from regulatory payments such as license fee and spectrum usage charges (SUC).

The debt-laden telecom sector, which faces blockage of capital in the form of GST input tax credits (GST ITC), seeks a refund of unutilised ITC of Rs 35,000 crore for planned investments in the upcoming spectrum auction and a probable rollout of 5G later this year, says EY. The industry has also demanded removal of time limitation or an extension of the time for claiming MAT (Minimum Alternate Tax) credit, which remained unclaimed due to losses in recent years. Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the body that represents telecom operators, has asked for a reduction in licence fee and SUC levies. At present, there are two components to 8 per cent license fee- Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF) of 5 per cent and license fee of 3 per cent. COAI has urged DoT to reduce license fee from 3 per cent to 1 per cent, and USOF contribution down to 3 per cent, with an objective of removing these charges over the next 2-3 years.

Among the world's cheapest and fastest growing market, India's telecom sector faces issues of soaring debt. Telecom companies owe Rs 1.47 lakh crore in additional statutory dues to the government, following the Supreme Court observation on AGR. They owe Rs 92,642 crore as licence fee, and Rs 55,054 crore as spectrum usage charges. Though the companies have made partial payment, substantial amounts still lay outstanding. Besides, the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up new challenges, pushing the telecom operators to increase their network resiliency and reliability to deal with increasing data usage. The pandemic has led to an increase in demand for telecom services with work-from-home, remote education, home entertainment.

In the backdrop of slowing economy and the telcos' planned investments, particularly in 5G, the telcos hope for an industry-friendly Budget.

In the last Union Budget, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had more than doubled its revenue estimate from the debt-ridden telecom sector to Rs 1.33 lakh crore in fiscal year 2020-21, mainly on account of levies derived from AGR, license fees and spectrum usage charges. (Source: Business Today)

MeitY draft: PLI outlay for laptops, servers at Rs 7,500 crore

Damages to telecom towersThe investment targets for overseas players would be fixed at around Rs 500 crore spread over a period of four years (Rs 125 crore per year) while for local companies it would be Rs 20 crore (Rs 5 crore per year).

The outlay for production-linked incentives to make laptops, tablets, personal computers and servers has been pegged at Rs 7,500 crore with the benefits expected to be in the range of 2-4%. Much like it did when it rolled out production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme for manufacturers of mobile phones, the government is likely to set different qualifying targets for domestic and overseas companies, official sources told FE. While overseas players would be eligible for incentives if laptops are priced over Rs 30,000 and tablets cost more than Rs 15,000, local players would not be subject to this condition. MeitY is hoping to roll out the scheme by April 1 following an in-principle clearance by the Cabinet.

The investment targets for overseas players would be fixed at around Rs 500 crore spread over a period of four years (Rs 125 crore per year) while for local companies it would be Rs 20 crore (Rs 5 crore per year). The annual production targets over the base year, that would make firms eligible for the benefits, are yet to be decided.

India is aspiring for a more than five-fold increase in electronics manufacturing to $400 billion by FY2025, by focusing on export markets and incentivising manufacturers to become globally competitive. In the case of laptops tablets and servers, the objective is to try and transfer 20% to 30% of the world’s manufacturing to India.

Last April, the government rolled out a PLI scheme for large scale electronics manufacturing. The scheme extended incentives of 4% to 6% on incremental sales over the base year for goods manufactured in India for a period of five years subsequent to the base year as defined. However, applicants have indicated to the government they will not be able to meet the manufacturing targets before the March-end deadline and have sought a rollover of the milestones to the second and third years. This is only for those firms that meet their investment targets for the first fiscal.

Experts believe mobile PLI-applicant companies are likely to meet first-year incremental revenue target despite challenges posed by Covid-19. Given low base and large entry-level mobile market (1,300 millio units below $200), incremental revenue targets for domestic mobile manufacturers should not be hard to achieve. (Source: Financial Express)

CAIT asks govt to ban WhatsApp, Facebook over new privacy policy

Damages to telecom towersCAIT said Facebook has more than 200 million users in India and enabling it to access data of every user can pose serious threat to not only the economy but even to the security of the country.

Traders’ body CAIT on Sunday wrote to Information and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad demanding that the government restrict WhatsApp from implementing its new privacy policy or impose a ban on the messaging app and its parent company Facebook.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) claimed that through the new privacy policy, “all kinds of personal data, payment transactions, contacts, location and other vital information of a person who is using WhatsApp will be acquired by it and can be used for any purpose by WhatsApp”.

In the communication to Prasad, CAIT has demanded that “government should immediately restrict WhatsApp from implementing the new policy or put a ban on WhatsApp and its parent company Facebook”, the traders’ body stated.

CAIT said Facebook has more than 200 million users in India and enabling it to access data of every user can pose serious threat to not only the economy but even to the security of the country.

However, in an email response to PTI, a WhatsApp spokesperson said, “To further increase transparency, we updated the privacy policy to describe that going forward businesses can choose to receive secure hosting services from our parent company Facebook to help manage their communications with their customers on WhatsApp.

“Though of course, it remains up to the user whether or not they want to message with a business on WhatsApp.”

The spokesperson further said that the update does not change WhatsApp’s data sharing practices with Facebook and does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family wherever they are in the world.

“WhatsApp remains deeply committed to protecting people’s privacy. We are communicating directly with users through WhatsApp about these changes so they have time to review the new policy over the course of the next month,” the spokesperson added.

An email sent to Facebook seeking comment on the issue did not elicit a response. CAIT Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said, “The changed privacy policy of WhatsApp is an encroachment on privacy of an individual and runs against the basic fundamentals of Constitution of India and therefore the CAIT has demanded immediate intervention of the government.” (Source: Financial Express)

New work from home rules in 2021? Govt readies proposal to formalise WFH facility for services sector

Competing telcos put tariff hikes in abeyanceFor the manufacturing sector, the standing order governing work conditions was applicable in organisations having 100 or more workers until last year.

The government has proposed to formalise work from home (WFH) facility for the services sector, but left the manufacturing sector outside the ambit of the concept for now. “Subject to conditions of appointment or agreement between employer and workers, employer may allow a worker to work from home for such period or periods as may be determined by the employer,” the labour ministry said in the draft model standing orders for the services sector. However, regulatory parameters for WFH have not been prescribed.

Separately, it has also issued draft model standing orders for the manufacturing and the mining sectors seeking comments from stakeholders.

Model standing orders set standards for service conditions and employees’ conduct in an establishment. There are no such standards for the services sector so far, it is being proposed for the first time. These standing orders will be applicable in organisations having 300 or more workers.

For the manufacturing sector, the standing order governing work conditions was applicable in organisations having 100 or more workers until last year. The threshold has been increased to 300 workers in the labour code on industrial relations approved in Parliament late last year.

Labour expert K R Shyam Sundar said, “Without proper regulations for WFH, employees will be left at the mercy of the employers. Employees’ bargaining power will be reduced. WFH should also figure in the model standing orders for the manufacturing sector. The concept of WFH should be left for the individual establishment to decide, whether it is in the manufacturing or in the services sector.”

Rajiv Kapoor, member, CII national committee on industrial relations, also said, “Manufacturing should also be given the WFH facility, but I would suggest that it should be left to the discretion of an individual organisation, be it in the manufacturing or in the services sector. With the advent of digitisation and technology, lot of jobs in the manufacturing sector can now also be done from specially design and other office works.”

The standing orders for both manufacturing and services sectors prescribe that a worker may be suspended by the employer pending investigation or enquiry into complaints or charges of misconduct against him. Misconduct includes sleeping on duty and acceptance of gifts from sub-ordinates among others. However, such investigation or enquiry, shall be ordinarily completed within ninety days from the date of suspension. The worker shall be paid subsistence allowance during the period of suspension, provided the worker does not take any employment elsewhere during the period of suspension.

Wage payment shall be done through electronic mode and within the seventh day of the wage period in respect of which wages are payable. A worker can be transferred from one state to another according to the transfer policy and exigencies of work from one shop or department to another or from one station to another or from one industrial establishment to another under the same employer. The concerned employee should be given reasonable time to join and be paid travelling allowance including the transport charges.

All sets of workers — permanent, temporary, apprentices, probationers, badlis and fixed term employment — will have to wear an identity badge or card bearing his full name, employee number, blood group, mobile number, if any, and a recent photograph. (Source: Financial Express)

Venkaiah Naidu inaugurates TiE’s Virtual Global Summit, the world’s largest entrepreneurship summit.

Pre-Bookings open for Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 UltraEntrepreneurship is not only about profits, but it is also about making people’s lives better: Mr. Venkaiah Naidu, Vice President of India

Vice President Venkaiah Naidu asked the youth to become entrepreneurs

The virtual summit gave real-life experience to the attendees

Hyderabad, December 08, 2020....The largest entrepreneurship summit, ever held on the planet, both in-person and virtual, TiE Global Summit 2020 kicked off on Tuesday evening.

The summit aimed at fostering entrepreneurship has touched a record of about 50,000 registrations, which is a unique milestone in the history of TiE.

The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu formally inaugurated it.

The grand opening ceremony was graced by Sri. Nitin Gadkari Union Minister.

Speaking further, the Vice President, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu emphasised that fostering student-entrepreneurship through innovation programmes is extremely critical and universities need to establish close linkage with industries to mentor and handhold students with novel business ideas.

Addressing the TiE Global Summit-2020 through video conferencing from Visakhapatnam today, the Vice President asked the universities to set up incubation centres to tap and nurture entrepreneurial talent among youngsters. He also appealed to the corporate sector to come forward to fund and promote an entrepreneurial ecosystem on university campuses.

The TiE is a Silicon Valley-based non-profit organisation supporting start-ups through networking and its Summit-2020 will be showcasing opportunities to get mega investments into India.

Mentioning that the youth comprise about 65 per cent of India’s population, Shri Naidu stressed that the vast energies of the talented youth should be tapped fully and their mindset should be changed from being job-seekers to job creators. The Vice President also wanted a special drive to be launched for promoting entrepreneurship among women. There is a huge potential for promoting women entrepreneurs in the country, he said and expressed happiness over the fact that TiE has impacted 50,000 aspiring women entrepreneurs through mentoring.

Describing India as home to world’s third-largest start-up ecosystem, Shri Naidu quoted a recent NASSCOM that about 50 per cent of the Tech start-ups are confident of reaching revenues of the pre-COVID-19 level. “This certainly is optimistic news and I am sure, things would look up for all Indian start-ups in the near future”, he added.

Referring to various studies, he said that most entrepreneurial countries in the world are also the most prosperous and entrepreneurship makes people happier and more fulfilled.

Highlighting that entrepreneurship is not only about profits, Shri Naidu said that it is also about making people’s lives better through education, health care and basic human rights. “It is about valuing both competition and compassion”, he added.

Talking about the challenges thrown up by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vice President said that this is the time to turn adversities into opportunities. Calling upon the youngsters to come out with innovative ideas to meet the emerging challenges, he wanted the creation of an ecosystem that can enable many innovative ideas to be translated into promising start-ups.

Stating that entrepreneurship plays a crucial role in economic growth and employment generation, VP appreciated the Government for creating an enabling environment through Start-up India.

Fostering entrepreneurship is not just about crafting the right economic policy, or developing the best educational curricula, it is about creating an entire climate in which innovation and ideas flourish, VP said and added, “When entrepreneurs succeed, they create economic opportunity not only for Indians but for people all over the world.”

Stating that with more and more young people joining the labour market, the world will need about a half a billion new jobs by 2030, the Vice President called upon the established entrepreneurs and chambers of commerce, associations like TiE to mentor the next generation. They need to share the wisdom they gained, while the universities must work through research and internships to nurture and develop the entrepreneurial skills of students before they graduate, VP added. The Vice President was of opinion that good entrepreneurial ideas backed by talent will beckon investors, who will be willing to invest in early-stage entrepreneurs -- not only in Silicon Valley -- but in Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam or any other place where there is talent. For the entrepreneurship ecosystem to be effective, he stressed the need for the private sector to work hand-in-hand with NGOs, universities, and governments.

Observing that starting a business is a daunting task, Shri Naidu said that we must connect entrepreneurs with mentors who can guide them. He expressed happiness that in this TiE Global event more than 300 mentors are available to show the ropes to young entrepreneurs across the globe.

The Vice President noted that such summits not only provide an important platform to exchange ideas and knowledge but also help in creating networks and complimented TiE for this initiative. Speaking on the occasion Mr Nitin Gadkari said MSME is the backbone for Indian Economy. It contributes to 30% to our GDP, which we would like to increase to 40%, similarly the exports, 48% we will take up to 60%. MSME sector generates 11crore employment. We will try and create 5crore more jobs. Village industries contribute Rs 80,000crore. This we must make it to Rs 5 lakh crore in the next two years.

Rural India has a huge potential. But there is a crisis in terms of social, economic and educational. We need to develop more industries to generate more employment, he said.

Convert knowledge into the economy. India is rich in our ancient wisdom. We must use it. Organic farming is the future, the Union Minister said. The Minister highlighted the various initiatives of his Ministry. The global tenders below Rs 200crore are disallowed, he said. Reduce import and increase export, he said. Automobile industry now is Rs 4,50,000 crores and is poised for good growth and might become top in the world. The sector has increased its exports during the pandemic. Minister informed that the Ministry is working on the research of Hydrogen Fuel. He informed that India is the most appropriate destination for the investment. He concluded his talk on a positive note that the country needs more positivity and self-confidence, so that we not only win the war against the Covid but also any economic battles KT Rama Rao who addressed expressed his happiness to know that TiE is going to set up its global headquarters at Hyderabad. The Minister enlisted some of the initiatives of the state in fostering the entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship cannot be inculcated artificially. The government is the enabler and creator of the conducive environment he said. The new normal requires more entrepreneurship than ever as it needs to address its challenges. He explained how some of the state innovators rose to the occasion to create products such as low cost high accurate covid testing systems, low cost and import substitute ventilator and tracking and tracing mobile app. Telangana has done well in terms of COVID Management when compared to any other states. We have been inculcating innovation culture in the state and took up many measures, he informed.

Ranil Jayawardena MP, Minister for International Trade, United Kingdom; His Excellency President of Costa Rica - Carlos Alvarado Quesada also graced the inaugural.

Mr Sridhar Pinnapureddy, President, TiE Hyderabad; Mahavir Sharma, Chairman, TiE Global Board of Trustees, Mr. Manohar Reddy, Vice President Hyderabad also graced.

Welcoming the gathering Sridhar Pinnapureddy said, TiE Global Summit is the 8th in the series. It will help 500 start-ups access capital and connect to the mentor network. It is the conference of the next generation of thinkers and dreamers. TiE will help them in harnessing new technology. The summit will help its participants to get ten times more benefits than a pre-covid summit would have done.

Mahavir Pratap Sharma, Chairman TiE Global Board of Trustees while proposing a vote of thanks said TiE has been helping entrepreneurs solving the problems the society it is confronting with. It has been working with all the sectors in the industry and all stakeholders such as women, students. Now it is even reaching out to the underprivileged. We work with the bottom of the pyramid, he said.

The World’s Largest Entrepreneurship Summit is based on the theme ‘Entrepreneurship 360’ and it will focus on issues faced and challenged by entrepreneurs, provide a platform for funding, insights into strategies to grow and scale business.

Though virtual, the summit was near to physical. It gave attendees something they don’t expect—a refreshing taste of real life. It added real-life feeling real virtual conference. The attendees got physical at the virtual event

AGR verdict brings certainty; DoT should now focus on ease of business: BIF

Pre-Bookings open for Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 UltraThe AGR verdict will allow companies to move ahead with certainty on business plans, and the DoT must now focus on steps to make the telecom sector profitable and attractive to investors through ease of business measures and lowering “onerous” duties and levies, industry think tank Broadband India Forum (BIF) has said.

BIF has also urged the Department of Telecom (DoT) to take quick decisions on a spate of recommendations which have already been forwarded by the sector regulator including major ones like public Wi-Fi networks for broadband proliferation.

BIF said any delay in decision-making on TRAI’s recommendations comes at an “enormous economic cost” at a time when the country has set its sights on massive digital transformation.

Focus on profitability

The Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) verdict has brought in finality to the statutory dues issue, and the industry can now move on with business plans, BIF President TV Ramachandran told PTI.

“Government must see how they can make the industry more profitable and attractive to investors. Ultimately, if you want investments to come into the country, you have to make the business case attractive,” Ramachandran added. The immediate focus must be on ease of doing telecom business, and reduction of “onerous duties and levies”, which are amongst the highest, he said.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court allowed telecom operators to pay 10 per cent of total AGR-related dues this year, and rest of the payments in 10 instalments starting from next fiscal year. Implement recommendations

Ramachandran further said many of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommendations that have already been forwarded to DoT but remain in a limbo, now need to be pushed actively, while the provisions of already-notified National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP) must be operationalised and implemented, at the earliest.

TRAI recommendations that could be very useful once implemented, include reduction in licence fee, USO (Universal Service Obligation) levy and spectrum usage charges, proliferation of broadband through public Wi-Fi networks and enhancement of scope of Infrastructure Providers Category-I (IP-I) registration, said BIF.

Besides, recommendations on captive VSAT CUG (Very Small Aperture Terminal - closed users group) policy issues, suggestions on ease of doing telecom business, spectrum usage charges(SUC) and presumptive-AGR for internet providers and commercial VSAT service providers, would also be helpful, it said.

Other key recommendations pertain to making ICT (Information and Communications Technology) accessible for persons with disabilities; next-generation Public Protection and Disaster Relief communication networks; spectrum, roaming and service quality related requirements in machine-to-machine communications; definition of revenue base (AGR) for the reckoning of licence fee and SUC, and reduction in the rate of GST imposed on the telecom sector. (Source: The Hindu Businessline)

Big booster: Govt panel clears $100-billion mobile export proposals from global manufacturers

Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Tata Tele likely to pay AGR dues on Monday: DoT source Applications by iPhone contract makers Foxconn, Pegatron and Wistron as well as Samsung, Karbonn, Lava and Dixon to export mobile phones worth around $100 billion from India have been cleared by the empowered group, said people with knowledge of the matter.

“The empowered committee has approved all applications estimated to export around $100 billion (Rs 7.3 lakh crore) worth mobile phones under the production linked incentive scheme (PLI) and all the applications will be placed before the cabinet probably this week,” a senior government official told ET.

Members of the empowered committee include the Niti Aayog CEO along with the secretaries of economic affairs, expenditure, revenue, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) and Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT). Five of the applicants are overseas ones, seven are Indian and another six are in the components manufacturing scheme, officials said.

Apple’s contract manufacturers and Samsung have submitted production estimates of phones worth $50 billion each in the next five years, according to the applications, said people with knowledge of the matter. Exports will be slightly lower in each case.

Scheme was Notified in April
“The extraordinary response to the PLI shows enormous trust of the global community in India’s manufacturing capability and leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” Communications & IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told ET.

The PLI scheme, which aims to make India a manufacturing hub for smartphones, was notified in April. Apple’s contract manufacturers started producing its latest handset models, the iPhone 11 and iPhone SE, shortly after that in India. The scheme is aimed at attracting manufacturers looking to move out of China amid Sino-US trade tensions, and even looks to draw companies from manufacturing hubs such as Vietnam. While Foxconn and Wistron already have plants running in India, Pegatron — Apple's second-largest contract manufacturer — is looking to set up its factory and is talking to states such as Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

Meanwhile, Samsung, which now exports phones worth about $2.5 billion from India, is all set to ramp up its production to handsets worth $50 billion in the next five years. Of this, $40 billion will comprise devices with a factory price of more than $200.

“Samsung exporting $2.5 billion out of India — of this, 97% was in the below $200 segment. By putting this floor price of $200 for eligibility in the PLI scheme, we have incentivised them to make high-value phones in the country and now they will be vacating this space of less than Rs 15,000 factory price for Indian players to occupy,” said the first official cited above. “This is an important stage as it will ensure that Indian players are able to climb up the learning curve and start making world-class smartphones to compete globally.”

The five global applicants are Samsung, two units of Foxconn, Wistron and Pegatron. The domestic ones are Lava, Dixon, Micromax, Padget Electronics, Sojo, Karbonn and Optiemus. According to government data, 22 companies had applied for the Rs 41,000-crore PLI scheme. (Source: Economic Times)

TRAI notifies changes to telecom interconnection rules for fixed line networks

HealthifyMe Telecom regulator TRAI on Friday notified certain changes to the telecom interconnection rules, paving the way for easier interconnectivity between any two fixed line networks and between fixed line and national long distance (NLD) networks.

Telecom regulator TRAI on Friday notified certain changes to the telecom interconnection rules, paving the way for easier interconnectivity between any two fixed line networks and between fixed line and national long distance (NLD) networks. An industry observer said that TRAI's 'Telecommunication Interconnection (Second Amendment) Regulations 2020' will bring procedural clarity and convenience for fixed line operators, and also address areas like closure of interconnect points in event of service discontinuation within a short-distance charging area.

Outlining the amendments, TRAI said that within a service area, the location of points of interconnect for call between any two fixed line networks and fixed line and NLD networks will be at a place that is mutually agreed to between the interconnection provider and seeker.

The term 'interconnection' refers to commercial and technical arrangements under which telecom service providers connect their equipment, networks, and services to enable their customers to have access to subscribers of other operators' network.

If the two sides fail to come to an agreement, the location of point of interconnect (PoI) for such networks will be Long Distance Charging Centre (LDCC), the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said in a statement.

"In such a case, the carriage charge for carriage of calls from LDCC to SDCC (Short Distance Charging Centres) and vice versa, as applicable, shall be paid by the interconnection seeker to the interconnection provider," it added.

It said that existing call connect points between two fixed line networks or fixed line and NLD networks will remain in operation for a period of minimum five years or till such time the interconnected service providers mutually decide to close such points, whichever is earlier.

"The existing PoI at the SDCC level, for calls between PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) and PSTN or between PSTN and NLD network can be closed if the services of either of the interconnected service providers are discontinued in that SDCA (Short-Distance Charging Area)," TRAI said. (Source: ETTelecom)

Review of telecom gear source code highly questionable: Ericsson to India

Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Tata Tele likely to pay AGR dues on Monday: DoT source A network can be compromised through weaknesses in deployment or configuration and operations, which software-related tests are not aimed to address, said Ericsson CTO.

Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson told the Indian government that the outcome of source code review would be questionable and it was virtually not possible to bring out the software free from known vulnerabilities.

In a two-page letter to Secretary of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), dated June 11, seen by ETTelecom, Ericsson's Chief Technology Officer (CTO), Erik Ekudden said, "it is highly questionable if a review of the source code is meaningful, depending on the purpose," and added that if the purpose was to verify the supplier’s software, it would be virtually an impossible task.

Stockholm-based executive further said that it was in fact virtually not possible to produce software that is free of all known vulnerabilities. "A network can be compromised through weaknesses in deployment or configuration and operations, which software-related tests are not aimed to address," Ekudden added.

The letter from multinational telecom giant has come on the back of India's much-anticipated move seeking source code of every network equipment deployed in the country as a part of the security assurance testing initiative.

"Certifying software or hardware does not mean it is flawless. Un-noticed imperfections of testing lead to a false sense of security," the top executive said.

“Certifying software or hardware does not mean it is flawless. Un-noticed imperfections of testing lead to a false sense of security.Erik Ekudden, Ericsson Global CTO”

Query to Ericsson did not elicit any response.

Citing disadvantages, Ekudden said that scanning source code requires Ericsson specific and domain-specific knowledge and understanding, and added that a meaningful review would take substantial time and effort and could be best performed by a team that has a good and thorough knowledge of the specific source code.

Meanwhile, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) that represents incumbent telcos such as Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, has maintained that the source code was never sought by the telecom department's security testing arm in the past. "This source code requirement has come up recently in the last two months. The discussions with DoT on Indian Telecom Security Assurance requirements (ITSAR) have been ongoing for over a year and the requirement to submit the source code was never raised earlier by the security testing team of the department," the group told DoT.

Last year, the United Kingdom had set up a test centre in order to screen source codes aimed to protect next-generation telecom networks following backdoor concerns surrounding Chinese gear maker Huawei Technologies.

However, the India unit of Chinese firm said that it was open to providing source code to the Indian authorities after a similar proposal was made by the company's founder Ren Zhengfei to a potential US-based company for manufacturing and deployments. The current best practice in the industry is to conduct comprehensive risk assessments based on the categorisation of the severity of potential security vulnerabilities, the Swedish company said, and believes that any critical security vulnerabilities that might compromise customers’ networks could be addressed before releasing any commercial software.

Last year, the Steering Committee chairman of India's high-level 5G panel A. Paulraj said that the telecom network technology from European gear makers may be as unsafe, or safe, as their Chinese rivals, including Huawei, and that only locally-produced technology can ensure complete infrastructure safety.

India's telecom equipment market is dominated by Finnish Nokia, Swedish Ericsson and Chinese Huawei.

In 2010, a similar security condition was initially imposed on multinational original equipment makers but later it was relaxed after the industry-wide consultation. (Source: ETTelecom)

Non immigrant like H1B visa pivotal to Post Covid 19 recovery: US tech giants to Trump

Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Tata Tele likely to pay AGR dues on Monday: DoT source The Wall Street Journal reported late last week that the US government is considering suspending a number of employment visas including the H-1B, in view of the massive unemployment in America due to the coronavirus pandemic. Indians are the largest beneficiaries of H-1B visas, receiving about two-thirds of the 85,000 new visas issued each

Technology giants Google, Facebook, Amazon, IBM and Accenture are among those petitioning the Trump administration for a continuation of visa regimes that allow them to hire highly- skilled immigrants as they will be pivotal to America’s economic recovery in a post-Covid world.

Washington-based advocacy ITI, which counts these companies and others as its members said it is "concerned" that the Donald Trump administration is contemplating suspending or restricting -- non-immigrant work visas including the much sought after H1-B visa, in a letter addressed to the US president last week.

“As the recent jobs report highlights, firms are anxious to get their employees back to work and the labour market is showing promising movement. The technology industry, including our foreign-born workers, are vital to sustaining these recovery trends,” Jason Oxman, President and CEO of ITI wrote.

Separately, the US Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue has also written to the US government pointing out that as the economy rebounds, American businesses will need assurances that they will be able to meet all their workforce needs.

US-India Business Council told ET that it endorses the letter sent by Donohue. HCL Technologies CEO C Vijayakumar and Citi India CEO Ashu Khullar along with Bharat Forge Deputy MD Amit Kalyani are among the global board of directors of the US-India Business Council.

“An analysis of Bureau of Labour Statistics data in May 2020 showed that unemployment in computer-related occupations decreased in April 2020 to 2.8 percent from 3.0 percent in January 2020,” Oxman of ITI said in his letter.

The Wall Street Journal reported late last week that the US government is considering suspending a number of employment visas including the H-1B, in view of the massive unemployment in America due to the coronavirus pandemic. Indians are the largest beneficiaries of H-1B visas, receiving about two-thirds of the 85,000 new visas issued each year.

US firms including the likes of Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook have been the key beneficiaries of the H-1B visa in recent years with seven of the top 10 in fiscal 19 being US headquartered tech firms

“If companies cannot hire new H-1B workers or continue to employ their current H-1B workers, innovation and productivity growth, particularly that which is achieved through patent production, would suffer greatly to the detriment of our overall economy,” Donohue wrote in his letter to the US President

He added that short-term disruptions in the L-1 and H-1B visa programs would hamper businesses’ ability to plan for the long-term

Imposing burdensome new regulatory requirements on businesses that employ foreign nationals would undermine that access to talent, and, “in the process, undercut our economy’s ability to grow and create jobs,” Donohue wrote.

In addition to the H-1B visas, the suspension could apply to the H-2B visa for short-term seasonal workers, the J-1 visa for short-term workers including camp counselors and au pairs and the L-1 visa for internal company transfers.

"The administration is currently evaluating a wide range of options, formulated by career experts, to protect American workers and job seekers especially disadvantaged and underserved citizens - but no decisions of any kind have been made," White House spokesman Hogan Gidley had said in a statement.

Technology industry groupings point out that even during the pandemic, in May 2020, nationwide in the US, one in four highly-skilled tech workers across sectors were immigrants.

Arguing that the technology industry, including foreign-born employees, is enabling many Americans to continue to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, ITI’s Oxman said the sector is playing an essential role. More so, as it enables the U.S. economy to move activities online and maintain vital digital infrastructure to keep businesses running securely and people connected. (Source: Economic Times)

TRAI issues clarification, says it has not recommended an 11-digit numbering scheme for mobile services

Pre-Bookings open for Samsung Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 UltraThe Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Sunday issued a clarification stating that it had not recommended having 11-digit mobile numbers, but only adding a ‘0’ as a prefix when a mobile number is dialled from a landline.

“Trai has not recommended 11-digit numbering scheme for mobile services,” the Telecom regulator said in a statement.

It further said that it had “categorically rejected” having an 11-digit mobile number. The statement follows media reports stating that the regulator had suggested having 11-digit mobile numbers as part of its ‘Recommendations on Ensuring Adequate Numbering Resources for Fixed Line and Mobile Services’ report.

“Presently, inter-service area mobile calls from basic/fixed phone can be accessed with a dialling prefix ‘0’. However, mobile phones are accessed from a fixed-line phone, within a service area, without dialling prefix ‘0’.

This puts the limitation that any digit which has been used as a first digit for fixed network (for local calls) cannot be used for mobile numbers. By making it mandatory to access mobile numbers in a service area from fixed network by dialling prefix ‘0’, all the free sub-levels in levels ‘2’,’3’,’4’, and ‘6’, can also be used for mobile numbers,” the report said.

This can help generate an additional 2,544 million numbering resources for mobile services to cater to future requirements as per TRAI. “The introduction of a dialling prefix for a particular type of call is not akin to increasing the number of digits in the telephone number,” TRAI clarified.

It further added that a prefix is mandatory for SDCA (Short Distance Charging Area) calls and while making a call form mobile number to fixed landline stating that it had only suggested “minor changes” in the dialling pattern. (Source: The Hindu Businessline)

Restrict e-commerce only to essentials, urge mobile retailers

Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Tata Tele likely to pay AGR dues on Monday: DoT source Appeal Southern States to bar them from selling phones, TVs. As the Centre has included e-commerce in the list of activities that are exempted from the lockdown from April 20, the regional mobile phone retailers have appealed to the State Governments in the South not to allow sales of phones or TVs, which are not considered essential services.

In letters to the Governments of Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, the South India Mobile Retailers Association have argued that the guidelines issued by the Home Ministry are being misinterpreted by certain players and they are preparing to sell smart phones and TVs through the e-commerce route.

In its letter to Telangana Industries and Information and Technology Minister K T Rama Rao, the association cautioned that allowing e-commerce players to deliver phones during the lockdown period could pose health challenges.

“There are no standards being followed at the warehouses of these online partners. There are no SOPs (standard operating procedures) given to their delivery boys on hygiene,” the association said.

Citing the example of a Delhi Pizza delivery boy who reportedly exposed 70 persons to Covid-19, the material used and the personnel who will deliver the products may spread the infection in the absence of safety measures.

“There is a huge shortage of manpower during this pandemic and if resources are allocated for supplying these commercial products, it will create a manpower crunch for supplying the essential items like food and groceries,” it said.

The association in its memorandum further appealed to confine e-commerce operations only to essential commodities delivery and bar them selling phones and TVs, (The Hindu Businessline)

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