US heaps pressure on India over security rules

Michael Carroll
30 Mar 2011

India’s government is being pressured by the US to drop tough telecoms security measures, including its bid to gain access to encrypted e-mails and phone calls.

The US Trade Representative will call for changes to India’s telecoms equipment import rules and its demands to access encrypted communications during their next scheduled meeting, after US firms said they were worried by the strict regime in the Asia Pacific country.

Also on the table will be plans to open up IP-based telephony in India – an idea mooted by regulator Trai three years ago, but which has yet to be put into action, sources told the Economic Times.

The US wants action over India’s plans to force equipment vendors to place security codes in escrow so they can be accessed by security officials, despite the country already backtracking on the plan following complaints from European vendors including Ericsson and Nokia Siemens.

Ironically, a separate security plan by India that would force carriers and vendors to allow real-time monitoring of wireless communication is based on the US’s Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act. That act covers lawful intercept of voice, e-mail, Web data and VoIP communications.

The Trade Representative will also tackle the issue of high taxation on foreign telcos seeking to operate in India. Overseas operators are currently taxed on the airtime they buy from domestic operators, and on income derived from re-selling that airtime.

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