Bharti Wants Unrestricted Telecom Gear Imports

Bharti Airtel, India's top mobile operator, wants unrestricted import of telecoms equipment to India and is talking to the government on the issue, its South Asia chief said on Tuesday. The government has made it mandatory for telecoms firms to get security clearance from the telecoms ministry before placing any equipment purchase order.

Industry sources have said the government is not approving equipment orders from Chinese vendors on security concerns. Huawei Technologies, the biggest Chinese telecom equipment firm, is working to allay Indian government's security concerns. "There has to be a free flow of equipment. That's absolutely paramount, because you need capacity and more equipment to serve so many millions of customers that the networks are adding," Sanjay Kapoor, Bharti Airtel's CEO for India and South Asia, told Reuters. "We are talking to the government. The industry is talking actually. We are hopeful that we will get some positive traction on that," he referring to the security clearance issue.

India started overhauling its security system after Islamist militants killed 166 people in a three-day attack in Mumbai in November 2008. The militants used a satellite phone while travelling to Mumbai by sea and kept in touch with their handlers in Pakistan on mobile and Internet phones. Kapoor declined comment when asked if Bharti was facing any hurdle in getting approval for Chinese-made telecom equipment and said their major vendors are Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks. Norway's Telenor, one of the newest entrants in the Indian mobile sector, said last week rules demanding security clearance from the Indian government had resulted in a delay in its second launch phase.