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Telecom equipment makers oppose India’s DoT mandatory local testing

Telecom equipment makers Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, and ZTE are planning to officially oppose the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) order to implement the mandatory testing and certification of imported telecommunications equipment through TEC-approved local laboratories. They want the government to defer the in-country screening deadline, which is October 1, 2020.

India’s local telecom equipment makers, however, support the order and are of the view that the mandatory testing will address the potential security threats posed by telecom equipment from Chinese vendors like Huawei and ZTE.

The Indian government is planning to test all types of telecom transmission gear, passive optical network products and equipment that telecom service providers use in last-mile broadband connectivity and network feedback devices. Other devices like modems, audio-conferencing equipment, fax machines and Wi-Fi access points will also be tested.

The implementation of the DoT order, multinational vendors said, will delay 4G network rollouts by up to nine months, and will lead to duplication of certification activity. They are also of the view that such testing will further delay 5G network roll out in the country and could create potential supply chain disruptions and increase the cost of telecom services.

These multinational telecom gear vendors already conveyed that their products already come certified by accredited private global labs under the Common Criteria Recognition Arrangement (CCRA) before deployment in India.

“This [mandatory testing] will end up disrupting timely equipment supplies to our telco clients and derail network rollouts at a time when people are still largely working from home and need access to quality mobile broadband services,” a senior industry executive was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.

Chinese gear vendor Huawei said that the telecom department’s compliance timeline related to mandatory testing is tight, but it’s ready to abide by the testing procedure stated by the Indian government.

The Telecommunication Engineering Centre (TEC), a nodal agency of the DoT, first issued the order in its July 4, 2019 notification. The deadline has been extended multiple times since last year due to various administration-related delays.

TEC has eight testing labs in India and has been providing certification to private labs across Delhi, Bengaluru, Gurugram, Chennai, among other cities.

India’s telecom department has now issued a fresh notification, dated June 23, 2020, ordering that all telecom products will have to undergo “in-country screening from October 1, 2020.” The DoT said that the order is in line with provisions of the Indian Telegraph (Amendment) Rules, 2017.

-Disruptive Asia

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