Telecom operators and network vendors have sought a year’s extension for mandatory testing of telecom equipment, citing inability to meet deadlines due to inappropriate lab infrastructure in the country and supply chain challenges due to semiconductor shortage.
The mandatory testing and certification of telecom equipment (MTCTE) regime will come into effect from July 1, under which all equipment has to be tested at local labs before they can be installed in network rollout. The mandatory testing is necessary to check for any security lapses, primarily of imported equipment. But telecom operators and vendors such as Ericsson, Nokia, Cisco, Dell, etc, have highlighted that the current lab infrastructure is inadequate.
The firms have demanded that the deadline should be extended to July 2023.
On an average, it takes 16-18 weeks for labs to configure and test products. “However, even in cases where OEMs have identified testing labs and issued purchase orders, no labs in India are equipped and accredited to undertake end-to-end testing at present. As a result, OEMs are required to move their products from one lab to another, which is inefficient and causes delays,” US-India strategic partnership forum (USISPF) said in a letter to telecom secretary K Rajaraman.
Letters from other industry bodies, including Broadband India Forum (BIF) and Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), have also sought a year’s extension citing similar challenges.
It has been highlighted that labs are grappling with limited capital equipment and a lack of human resources to undertake testing and certification. Another issue brought to the notice of the government is that phase III and IV under the regime were notified simultaneously and cover 46 product categories. Since these phases were notified in September 2021, the stipulated time for compliance to all the product categories was insufficient for completing domestic testing of such a large number of products. “A compliance timeline of at least 18 months should be provided when a new MTCTE phase is notified in the future. This will provide the industry sufficient time to address the ongoing challenges and adapt to future testing requirements,” BIF has said.
The industry continues to be impacted by the global semiconductor shortage and Covid-19 related disruptions. “As the global supply chain challenges continue, the industry is unable to meet all its delivery timelines for consumers as well as for obtaining product samples required for testing,” USISPF has said.
COAI has said the Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), nodal agency for implementing the regime, has put in certain onerous conditions on the companies. The companies are required to fill details around country of manufacturing, manufacturing location, contact number of plant in-charge, country of origin, etc, on the MTCTE portal, which was not mentioned when the regime was notified in September 2021. “The change in policy at the eleventh hour and the information asked is more or less similar to the inputs asked on trusted portal,” COAI has said.