The mobile service providers have asked the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to defer the April 1, 2019 deadline for mandatory testing and certification of imported network equipment due to a paucity of labs to undertake such in-country screening. There are only 33 such labs now as against the 100-odd required.
They have urged DoT and its technical wing, TEC, to instruct customs authorities not to insist on the required certification to pre-empt imported 3G and 4G equipment worth billions of dollars from getting stuck and delaying network rollouts and expansion after April 1. Mobile operators import an estimated USD 6-7 billion of network gear annually, from vendors, such as Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, Samsung, and ZTE.
Sufficient test labs and all related technical and procedural challenges need to be in place before these tests can be made mandatory. In the absence of a testing ecosystem, the companies urged DoT and TEC to pave the way for early mutual recognition agreements (MRA) between India and other countries for testing and certification of telecom gear. A self-certification regime in line with the US and the European Union, where vendors undertake to certify compliance with standards specified by a government could be encouraged, the validity of which could be verified by the authorities.
In the interim, telcos have urged the government to consider the global certification of imported telecom devices as long as they are valid internationally.