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5G rollout: DoT removes a major roadblock in launch of services by year-end

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In a significant relief to telecom gear makers and telcos, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), through an amended notification late Monday, has extended the date for mandatory testing and certification of 4G and 5G products within India by one year to July 1, 2023.


Telcos and equipment makers had made it clear that the previous July 1 deadline, if implemented, would seriously jeopardise the rollout of 5G services from the end of this year as there are not enough third-party labs to test 4G and 5G products. So even if telcos give firm orders for equipment from July after the auction, the import of equipment would get delayed by 6-12 months which would delay the rollout.


Under the new testing and certification rules, equipment such as microwaves, radios, routers and so on – which can be used for both 4G and 5G networks – could not be imported or sold after July 1 without first being tested by selected third-party labs within the country. They also need to be certified by the Telecommunication Engineering Centre on safety, emission, and other technical parameters.


But with labs still not equipped to handle such testing in the country, telcos feared that orders to buy or import network equipment had come to a standstill. Many global vendors had already stopped imports of new equipment since Friday, as the deadline was just a few weeks away.


The extension will also give breathing space for the import of only 5G equipment, which also must go through a similar process for which the January 1, 2023, deadline was being considered. With this order, that deadline is also likely to be extended.


The decision was taken after hectic discussions between DoT and stakeholders who had suggested an extension of the deadline or keeping the deadline in abeyance till enough third-party testing labs are available in the country. The government had assured stakeholders that at least one lab would be up and running by July, but that was not enough for the requirement.


Telcos say that while buying new products – for example, the crucial radios, they prefer to import them with the capability to power both 4G and 5G, and such products (which are not only 5G) would have come under the preview of the July deadline.


Some, like the Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association (TEMA), have suggested that the mandatory testing rules are irrelevant and should be done away with. TEMA has argued that with the new ‘trusted product’ policy, all telecom products procured by telcos are already covered. Any remaining items can be brought under the ambit of the Bureau of Indian Standards. The Cellular Operators Association of India had asked for an extension of six months, while vendors have asked for up to 18 months.


The issue became complicated as telcos were peeved that DoT (in consultation with MEITY), in an order dated April 27, exempted mobile handsets, smart watches, smart cameras, and servers, among others, from the same mandatory testing and certification rules.


DoT exempted these products as companies making these items were already being certified by the Bureau of Indian Standards on the same parameters.


Many equipment makers say that while MEITY has pushed for and received an exemption for mobile devices, the same should have been extended to them too by their administrative ministry-DoT.

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In a significant relief to telecom gear makers and telcos, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), through an amended notification late Monday, has extended the date for mandatory testing and certification of 4G and 5G products within India by one year to July 1, 2023.


Telcos and equipment makers had made it clear that the previous July 1 deadline, if implemented, would seriously jeopardise the rollout of 5G services from the end of this year as there are not enough third-party labs to test 4G and 5G products. So even if telcos give firm orders for equipment from July after the auction, the import of equipment would get delayed by 6-12 months which would delay the rollout.


Under the new testing and certification rules, equipment such as microwaves, radios, routers and so on – which can be used for both 4G and 5G networks – could not be imported or sold after July 1 without first being tested by selected third-party labs within the country. They also need to be certified by the Telecommunication Engineering Centre on safety, emission, and other technical parameters.


But with labs still not equipped to handle such testing in the country, telcos feared that orders to buy or import network equipment had come to a standstill. Many global vendors had already stopped imports of new equipment since Friday, as the deadline was just a few weeks away.


The extension will also give breathing space for the import of only 5G equipment, which also must go through a similar process for which the January 1, 2023, deadline was being considered. With this order, that deadline is also likely to be extended.


The decision was taken after hectic discussions between DoT and stakeholders who had suggested an extension of the deadline or keeping the deadline in abeyance till enough third-party testing labs are available in the country. The government had assured stakeholders that at least one lab would be up and running by July, but that was not enough for the requirement.


Telcos say that while buying new products – for example, the crucial radios, they prefer to import them with the capability to power both 4G and 5G, and such products (which are not only 5G) would have come under the preview of the July deadline.


Some, like the Telecom Equipment Manufacturers Association (TEMA), have suggested that the mandatory testing rules are irrelevant and should be done away with. TEMA has argued that with the new ‘trusted product’ policy, all telecom products procured by telcos are already covered. Any remaining items can be brought under the ambit of the Bureau of Indian Standards. The Cellular Operators Association of India had asked for an extension of six months, while vendors have asked for up to 18 months.


The issue became complicated as telcos were peeved that DoT (in consultation with MEITY), in an order dated April 27, exempted mobile handsets, smart watches, smart cameras, and servers, among others, from the same mandatory testing and certification rules.


DoT exempted these products as companies making these items were already being certified by the Bureau of Indian Standards on the same parameters.


Many equipment makers say that while MEITY has pushed for and received an exemption for mobile devices, the same should have been extended to them too by their administrative ministry-DoT.

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.

We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

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