South Asia and Beyond

‘India Well Aware Of The Cellular IoT Module Threats’

Cellular modules are crucial to a modern economy. They are used in a vast array of industrial applications including energy, logistics, manufacturing, transport, health, security, and payment processing. At home, they feature in cars, smart meters, computers, electric vehicle chargers, and white goods. They monitor and control complex systems remotely.

To ensure that such systems run efficiently, they collect huge amounts of data and metadata for analysis, processing, and response management. They also deliver software updates to improve functionality. Worryingly, many Chinese companies such as QUECTEL, FIBOCOM, SUNSEA, NEOWAY, and MEIG have a monopoly in the international markets, including in India. By late 2022, Chinese companies held 64% of the global market (including the PRC) by sales, and 75% by connectivity.

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If they achieve their aim of destroying other nations’ capability and securing a Chinese monopoly, free and open countries will face a triple threat, says Charles Parton, former British diplomat, now with the Council on Geostrategy and RUSI. Focusing on raising awareness of the Chinese threat, Parton says all the above-mentioned companies are nominally private companies. However, the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) national security laws require all organisations and individuals to accede to requests from the security authorities which is a regular feature in China.

Beyond the dangers of dependency, attaining a monopoly over these ubiquitous cellular modules would allow the CCP wide-ranging opportunities to interfere in free countries. By sending instructions covertly in software updates, which are too numerous and frequent to monitor individually over the decade-plus lifetime of cellular modules, the CCP could take hostile action at a time of tension, warns Parton during this chat with Editor-in-Chief Nitin A. Gokhale for our weekly programme The Gist. Watch for more.

Nitin A. Gokhale

Left to himself, Nitin A. Gokhale would rather watch films and sports matches but his day job as a media entrepreneur, communications specialist, analyst and author, leaves him little time to indulge in his primary interests. Gokhale in fact started his career in journalism in 1983 as a sports reporter. Since then he has, in the past 41 years, traversed the entire spectrum across print, broadcast and digital space. One of South Asia's leading strategic analysts, Gokhale has moved on from conventional media to become an independent media entrepreneur running three niche digital platforms—BharatShakti, StratNewsGlobal and Interstellar—besides undertaking consultancy and training workshops in communications for military institutions, corporates and individuals. Now better known for his conflict coverage and strategic analyses, Gokhale has lived and reported from India’s North-east for 23 years between 1983 and 2006, been on the ground at Kargil in the summer of 1999 and also brought us live coverage from Sri Lanka’s Eelam War IV between 2006-2009.    An alumni of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Security Studies in Hawaii, Gokhale now writes, lectures and analyses security and strategic matters in Indo-Pacific and travels regularly to US, Europe, Australia, South and South-East Asia to take part in various seminars and conferences. Gokhale is also a popular visiting faculty at India’s Defence Services Staff College, the three war colleges, India's National Defence College, College of Defence Management and the IB’s intelligence school.