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To extend or not to extend deadline for mandatory certification of MTCTE products?

Even as telcos are urging the government to again extend the deadline for mandatory testing and certification of telecommunication equipments (MTCTE), a department of telecommunications (DoT) taskforce on new telecom equipment opportunities has recommended against it.

The guidelines provide that telecom equipment must undergo testing and certification before it is put to sale and used for network rollouts. Currently, the deadline for the regime to commence is July 1.

However, the taskforce, led by VoICE consortium director general Rakesh Kumar Bhatnagar, thinks postponing the implementation would not only hinder the growth of the domestic telecommunications industry but also compromise the quality and safety of the equipment.

Telcos represented by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) have flagged the absence of testing and certification infrastructure in the country. Further, the pace of network deployment is faster than the setting up of testing labs, which may hinder the network rollout process as well, according to government officials.

“We are thinking over this right now. The ecosystem of testing and certification will keep on evolving. If every time extensions are sought, we will never be able to implement this and we don’t want to compromise security,”a government official said.

Against the telcos’ argument regarding infrastructure, Bhatnagar, in his individual capacity, has written to DoT secretary K Rajaraman that “we have now reached a point where the implementation of MTCTE Phase IV can be effectively executed without further extensions”.

On June 13 last year, the Telecommunication Engineering Centre notified the extension of date of MTCTE phase III and phase IV products to July 1, 2023, from July 1, 2022. Products under both phases for mandatory testing include compact cellular network, transmission terminal equipment, radio, routers, IP security equipments, optical fibre cable, signaling gateway, among others.

According to the TEC website, there are 62 testing and certification labs designated by the organisation.

“It is understood that an earlier postponement decision was done possibly on the lack of testing infrastructure, lack of skilled personnel. Now it appears that new reasons are being put forward by certain stakeholders along with fears that MTCTE certification may lead to several bottlenecks in the timely testing of the respective network elements, as private players may not be ready to invest with lower ROI, high capex requirement and expensive testing instruments/equipment are costly,” Bhatnagar said, adding that these reasons and arguments are far from ground reality.

Apart from TEC-designated labs, companies such as HFCL and Birla Cables, have already invested in developing testing infrastructure which can be used for the purpose of MTCTE testing.

“We have created a state-of-the-art telecom equipment testing lab especially for Radio and transport products at Bangalore. This lab is NABL certified. We can offer our lab infrastructure and testing expertise as a service to government and/or telcos to get their products tested as per MTCTE and help in the fast tracking the certification of the telecom equipment,” said Mahendra Nahata, managing director of HFCL.

According to Nahata, while there is a requirement for more such labs, with existing infrastructure at HFCL along with other industry TEC designated labs, it can be a good start. “We believe that meanwhile infrastructure can keep growing as more and more equipment comes for certification,” Nahata added. Financial Express

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