The government is asking telecom operators and industry associations about using “Open APIs for emerging technologies”, according to a document verified by two sources we spoke to. In a letter dated October 12, the Department of Telecommunications asked a select group of government and industry stakeholders for “suggestions/inputs for a holistic view” on using open APIs in emerging platforms. APIs, or Application Programming Interfaces, are software that facilitate communication between different types of applications. We have reached out to the DoT for further confirmation and comment on the letter.

This is the second policy consultation in two months that the DoT is holding with only industry and government stakeholders, without participation from civil society, academia or the general public. In September, we first reported the department’s letter asking for inputs on China and Huawei’s New IP proposal, which seeks a revamp of the foundational protocols underlying the internet.

Reference to 5G?

The letter doesn’t specify the reason for asking about its subject. All it does is point to a certain line in the National Digital Communications Policy, 2018, and ask stakeholders for inputs. This is the line it points to, bolded by us for emphasis:

  1. Synergising deployment and adoption of new and emerging technologies by:
    1. Creating a roadmap for emerging technologies and its use in the communications sector, such as 5G, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Internet of Things, Cloud Computing and M2M
    2. Simplifying licensing and regulatory frameworks whilst ensuring appropriate security frameworks for IoT/ M2M / future services and network elements incorporating international best practices
    3. Earmarking adequate licensed and unlicensed spectrum for IoT/M2M services
    4. Encourage use of Open APIs for emerging technologies

[Source]

Considering the section the recommendation is sourced from also mentions 5G, the DoT could very well be hinting at some sort of upcoming policy regarding 5G networks and the software that can be used in their deployment. We have reached out to the Department of Telecommunications for comment on why the consultation was issued.

It is worth noting that Reliance Jio is the only telecom operator in India that reportedly plans to use a non-proprietary Open RAN technology to deploy 5G networks. As such, if the DoT is looking into encouraging the use of such technology in the telecom sector, it will be interesting to see how it impacts Airtel and Vi vis-à-vis Jio. Airtel signed a deal with Ericsson earlier this month to deploy 5G-ready solutions; Ericsson had earlier criticised the Indian government’s proposal to require 5G vendors’ source code to undergo a government audit before deployment.

Full text of the DoT letter

Here’s what the DoT letter says. For reference, an unmarked copy of the NDCP, 2018 is enclosed.

Office Memorandum

Subject: Seeking comments of various stakeholders on National Digital Communication Policy-2018 item no. 2.2 (a) (iv) “Encourage use of Open APIs for emerging technologies” – reg.

Ref: National Digital Communication Policy- 2018

Kind reference is invited towards subject cited above for NDCP-2018 item no. 2.2. (a) (iv) regarding ‘Encourage use of Open APIs for emerging technologies’; under item no. ‘(a) Synergising deployment and adoption of new and emerging technologies by’ under ‘Strategies’ “Propel India: Enabling Next Generation Technologies and Services through Investments, Innovation, Indigenous Manufacturing and IPR Generation” on page no. 11 of the NDCP-2018.

In this regard, undersigned is directed to seek suggestions/inputs of stakeholders for a holistic view. The same may be sent either through hard copy or e-mail at mail id’s: dirnt-dot@gov.in or adgnt-dot@gov.in by 26.10.2020.

This issues with the approval of the competent authority.

[signed]
(Sachin Rathore)
ADG (NT-I)

Among private operators, the letter was sent to all telecom service providers, and the following industry associations: the Cellular Operators Association of India, the Internet Service Providers Association of India, the GSM Association, the Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association of India, the Telecom Equipment & Services Export Promotion Council, the Broadband India Forum, the Association of Competitive Telecom Operators, the Internet and Mobile Association of India, Nasscom, the ITI Council, and the Cyber Café Association of India,.

On the government side, the letter was sent to Dr. Hemant Darbari, the Director General of the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), K Ramchand, Executive Director at the Centre for Development of Telematics, Joint Secretary (Cyber and Information Security) at the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Joint Secretary of the National Security Council, Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary of the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology, and the director general of the Telecommunications Standards Development Society, India.