Indian telecom operators have urged the Indian government to revoke its decision to suspend imports of broadband network equipment, saying that the import logjam could severely impact fixed broadband penetration levels in coming months due to the unavailability of equipment.
Telcos also said that the suspension, which has been in effect since the past 11 months, has impacted the quality of fiber-based home broadband services in the country.
The Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT’s) technological wing, the Telecommunication Engineering Center (TEC), put testing and certification on hold for all gear vendors, including Nokia, Huawei and ZTE, in December 2020 – effectively barring imports of broadband equipment including ONTs (optical network terminals), OLTs (optical line terminals) and ONUs (optical network units).
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said in a letter to the TEC and the DoT secretary that the suspension is causing huge business disruption and severely hampering rollout of necessary broadband networks across India during the pandemic.
The COAI, which represents Jio, Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei and ZTE, said that the suspension is also having an adverse impact on provision of reliable broadband to homes in these times.
The telco body said that the temporary suspension is “presumably due to concerns relating to the manufacturing locations of these products”. A bulk of these broadband network products are manufactured in China.
Telcos and vendors also told the DoT that the suspension will derail home broadband network rollouts and expansion plans. “This could severely dent the quality of services amid rising data consumption as vast swathes of the corporate workforce and students continue to work and study from home,” a person was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.
Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) is India’s largest fixed broadband service provider, followed by Airtel and Jio. Airtel and Jio have been aggressively expanding their home broadband business with attractive plans and partnerships with cable operators.
The country’s fixed broadband user base is around 25 million.
India’s National Security Council Secretariat (NCSC) is already working on securing the country’s telecom infrastructure by designating a “trusted source” for the purchase of equipment by telecom operators. The new regime, effective from June 15, makes it mandatory for Indian telecom operators to use trusted network equipment from “trusted sources”.
The telco body said that it’s not necessary for TEC to restrict supply of such necessary equipment by global OEMs based on manufacturing locations, since the NCSC is already undertaking implementation of the national security directive.