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After 18 months of dithering, the Union Cabinet cleared the revised Press Note 5, paving the way for 74% FDI in telecom as compared to 49% currently. The revised guidelines on 74% FDI in telecom include a series of new security norms, especially on the controversial issue of remote access, to address the concerns of security and intelligence agencies as well as the defense ministry. In telecom parlance, remote access means accessing data and voice traffic from remote locations in India and abroad.

All telecom operators will get time till the first week of June to comply with the new norms. According to the new rules on remote access, telecom companies can extend this provision only from certain approved locations with prior approval from the Department of Telecom and other security agencies. Operators should keep an audit trail of all remote access activities for a period of six months, and these must be provided on request to DoT or any other agency authorized by the government. Besides, telecom companies must keep mirror images of such activities for online monitoring and provide the same to security agencies on request, and the provision of remote access cannot be used for monitoring of content.

The new guidelines also stipulate that under no circumstances should remote access be used for lawful interception of sensitive voice and data specified by the government. Additionally, it states that remote access can only be provided to telecom equipment suppliers and manufacturers and parents and affiliates of the licensee company. For extending this facility to any other company, prior approval of DoT is required.

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