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COAI recommends all networking devices be brought under MTCTE, once again

The mandate of trusted source certification should be extended to all foreign-made devices logging onto the telecom ecosystem, and not only network equipment as is the current norm, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said on Tuesday.

The COAI — which has all three private telecom service providers (TSPs), Reliance Jio, Bharti Airtel, and Vodafone Idea, as its members — has argued that bringing only certain devices network under the certification regime does not serve any purpose. It had written a letter to the Department of Telecommunications on the issue last year.

Since June 2021, TSPs have been mandatorily required to connect to their networks only those new devices that are designated as “trusted products” from “trusted sources”. The move is aimed at curbing strategic security risks emerging from Chinese telecom majors ZTE and Huawei.

Also, the government’s Mandatory Testing and Certification of Telecom Equipment (MTCTE) regime is set to come into effect on July 1. Under this, all the pieces of telecom equipment have to be tested and approved at local laboratories, before they can be installed as part of network rollouts.

Speaking with reporters on Tuesday, COAI Director General S P Kocchar said these regimes should be extended to all foreign-made devices, especially Internet of Things (IoTs), that are connected to a network. IoT devices are physical objects with sensors, processing ability, software, and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices, such as smart TVs, car keys, and wearable tech like smartwatches.

“If a sensor which is not security-cleared connects into any network, the network is only as strong as its weakest element. A TSP has to buy a network switch, which is cleared by trusted sources as well as MTCTE. But other players can buy the same switch online and use it on a network,” Kocchar said.

A network switch connects devices in a network with each other, enabling them to talk by exchanging data packets. Giving out network equipment to people using unlicensed spectrum without checking is not a good idea, Kocchar stressed, referring to Wi-Fi devices.

The COAI’s argument may also cover Chinese handsets, which have also been scrutinised by the government on charges of being security risks. According to the International Data Corporation’s (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker preliminary data, 31 million smartphones were shipped in India in the first quarter of CY23. Among this, top Chinese brands like Vivo, Oppo, Xiaomi, and Redmi together control 61.1 per cent of the market.

Kocchar said he was hopeful that the government would postpone bringing in the MTCTE regime for now. TSPs earlier said the laboratory infrastructure in the country remains limited for testing the entire range of network equipment.

The median mobile download speeds in India increased to 39.94 Mbps in May, from 36.78 Mbps in April.

Ookla’s Speedtest Global Index ranks mobile and fixed broadband speeds from across the world, monthly.

According to the Speedtest Global Index report, in the month of May, India climbed three ranks up in median mobile speeds globally, making a consistent improvement in overall global median mobile speeds.

“On median fixed broadband speeds, India came down by one spot in global ranking from 83 in April to 84 in May,” Ookla said.

However, India’s performance in fixed median download speeds witnessed a slight increase from 51.12 Mbps in April to 52.53 Mbps in May 2023. PTI

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