Security agency Research and Analysis Wing has asked the Department of Telecom to make background verification of telecom companies mandatory even before granting them provisional permission for starting international long distance communication services.
“RAW has requested that security clearances from the national security agencies viz, R&AW and IB for a thorough background check of companies…and ramifications of the project on national security, be made mandatory before provisional permission for installation and operations for ILD is granted,” an official source said.
International long distance (ILD) companies are allowed to provide ISD calls and internet-related services.
According to sources, RAW in a letter to DoT said that “it has also been noted that ILD licencees are either front companies for major telecom operators, who may have a foreign stake…with the result that the security implications of access by the ILD operators to the Indian telecom network become even more significant”.
At present, an ILD company is required to get approval from the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) if foreign stake in the firm is above 49 per cent.
Now, the government has approved 100 per cent foreign direct investment.
Recently, US firm AT&T’s name has come up in list of companies that have applied to raise stake in their Indian telecom subsidiaries. AT&T holds ILD licence in partnership with Mahindra Telecommunications.
The agency said that DoT has been granting conditional approval of ILD gateways for voice and data services. The final permission will be given only after successful demonstration of lawful interception and monitoring capabilities.
However, national security agencies are not consulted for any background check of companies or their promoters to examine security implications of allowing a new company to access telecom network of the country, it added.
DoT is of the view that whenever a company opts for foreign investment then FIPB approval is required and therefore background check as suggested by R&AW may not be required under present circumstances.