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Govt Extends Telecom Equipment Testing Deadline Again

Picture Source: Internet

On Friday, the government extended the deadline for implementing Mandatory Testing and Certification of Telecommunications Equipment (MTCTE). According to a notification from the Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), the rules, originally scheduled to be implemented on July 1, will take effect from October 1 to January 1, 2024, depending on the product.

The guidelines state that every telecom equipment must undergo mandatory testing and certification before being sold and used for network deployment. Implementing such a regime is key to ensuring the use of quality and secure equipment in the network. On June 13 last year, the TEC notified to extend the date of MTCTE Phase III and Phase IV products from July 1, 2022, to July 1, 2023.

According to the current notification, the mandatory certification implementation date for 12 products covered by MTCTE Phase 3 and Phase 4, including cellular network base stations and optical cables, will be extended 6 months to January 1, 2024.

On the other hand, within three months until October 1, 2023, 32 products, such as IoT gateways, tracking devices, and routers, will be subject to mandatory certification.

The government extended the deadline despite the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) setting up a task force to advise against the move. The working group led by Rakesh Bhatnagar, director-general of the VoICE Alliance, said delaying the implementation would not only hinder the development of the domestic telecom industry but also compromise the quality and safety of the equipment used.

“This move to extend the deadline is not good for the domestic industry. We are not only seeing an increase in unnecessary imports but also compromised security,” Bhatnagar said, adding that the move is unsuitable for the beneficiaries of the telecom PLI scheme as they Already, sales in 2019 have been affected using low-quality and unsafe equipment.

However, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), representing major telecom operators, welcomed the government’s deadline extension. The association pointed to the country’s lack of testing and certification infrastructure. In addition, they said the speed of network deployment is faster than the speed at which testing laboratories can be built in the country, which may also hinder the network rollout process.

These extensions will help the industry face significant challenges in the implementation of MTCTE Phases 3 and 4, mainly due to the unavailability and limited capacity of testing laboratories, the lack of a clear timeline for testing procedures, and the lack of benchmarks for both testing fees and certification fees, said COAI.

“We believe the government found merit in our submission and made a practical decision based on the reality of the country’s telecom equipment testing and certification ecosystem. We thank the government and pledge our full support and all necessary efforts to ensure effective compliance with the revised timetable,” said COAI Director General SP Kochhar.

Bhatnagar countered that some groups had put unnecessary pressure on the government. The government can start with the existing testing ecosystem in the country, which is enough to get started.

According to the TEC website, 62 testing and certification laboratories are designated by the organisation. In addition to TEC-appointed laboratories, companies such as HFCL, STL, Birla Cables, etc., have invested in developing testing infrastructure that can be used for MTCTE testing purposes.

“We have created a state-of-the-art telecom equipment testing lab in Bengaluru exclusively for radio and transport products. This lab is NABL certified. We offer our lab infrastructure and testing as a service to help the government and/or telecom companies get their products tested as per MTCTE and help in fast track the certification of telecom equipment,” said Mahendra Nahata, Managing Director, HFCL.

“Using uncertified equipment can jeopardise investment, longevity and network security,” said Ankit Agarwal, Managing Director of Sterlite Technologies (STL). “We firmly believe that implementation should be accelerated,” Agarwal added.

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