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December 30, 2010

Appliance Deployment: New Delhi Government Concerned Over 3G Video Calling Security Issues

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor


New Delhi residents seeking 3G services may have to wait longer than anticipated, according to this Hindustan Times report. The government is concerned about security issues and as a result, has asked telecom operators to delay their 3G launches until they have installed equipment for lawful interception of features such as video calls and multimedia messages.

This requirement will also delay planned appliance deployments throughout the region focused on leveraging the capabilities in video calls and web conferencing.

Reliance Communications (News - Alert) (RCom) and Tata Teleservices had both already launched video call services and have now put a freeze on all video calls. State-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL (News - Alert)) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL) have both been offering 3G services for more than a year, yet it is not clear if they have implemented similar freezes.

According to official sources at a meeting chaired by members of the department of telecommunications (DoT), the government has made it clear to operators that the security  agencies should be provided with the facilities to conduct interception where necessary. The government initially sought immediate suspension of 3G services, although home ministry officials agreed to allow operators time to comply with the initiative.

Video phone calls and video conferencing are considered to be critical services included in 3G offerings. Operators are concerned with this new government directive and highlighted that vendors do not provide facility to monitor video calls anywhere in the world. Home ministry officials indicated that they would discuss the matter further internally.

In a notice dated the 14th of December, the DoT had asked RCom and Tata to immediately suspend services. The noticed stated:

 “It is further directed that 3G service should not be launched commercially till successful demonstration of lawful interception monitoring (LIM) capabilities and approval of the same by DoT. If the 3G services have been launched by M/s RCL (RCom), in any of the service area, these should be stopped immediately and compliance should be reported to DoT today, i.e., on 14.12.2010 by 17.00 hours.”

The majority of the features that security agencies could not tap were directly related to video calls. For instance, the companies were unable to demonstrate online delivery of video-call intercepts.

The DoT notice indicated that a conference call is not distinctly labeled and instead displayed as two different outgoing calls. The companies had also failed to display MMS interceptions. The agency also encountered difficulty intercepting Yahoo! Messenger on the Internet and chatting. All of these “shortcomings” have the government concerned, instigating the freeze.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her


Edited by
Stefanie Mosca
columnist page.


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