Local testing of network gear will disrupt India’s 5G timeline

mandatory testing of 5G equipment
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Indian telecom operators have urged the authorities to delay mandatory testing of all imported network gear for safety checks at local labs until the end of this year, claiming that the current activation date of July 1 will impact 5G rollouts and 4G expansion.

Under the Mandatory Testing & Certification of Telecom Equipment (MTCTE) regime, telcos will be required to test imported network gear locally at accredited labs starting July 1.

According to a report by the Economic Times, the Department of Telecommunications’ technical arm, Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), is overseeing the implementation of the new regime.

India is planning to auction 5G spectrum in June or July, and that the first 5G call can be placed by August-September. However, several executives from telecom operators and equipment makers said that the equipment testing regime will disrupt that timelime unless the kick-in date is delayed until January 1, 2023.

A senior telco executive told the ET that the government must realise that 5G will be riding on existing 4G networks, and hence operators will be investing in their 4G networks along with 5G technology.

“So if 4G network expansion is in disarray, it will have a direct fallout on the proposed 5G launches in India,” he said.

Telcos and gear makers have claimed that local testing labs aren’t equipped to undertake comprehensive testing of the latest imported wireless radio equipments including RANs, switches and routers.

Another person told ET that these labs will be testing radio equipment for the first time, hence they need more time to prepare. He added that training efforts have been hindered by the pandemic, shortage of skilled manpower and restrictions on international travel.

“Testing and certification of network gear is highly complex and the Indian labs ecosystem is working overtime to gain this expertise.”

Wireline equipment such as GPON routers are already tested under the MTCTE regime.

Telcos and gear vendors aren’t just concerned about their upcoming 5G networks – they’re also fearing disruption in their 2G networks, which still support 280 million subscribers in the country. They have urged the DoT to exempt 2G network gear from the mandatory local testing drill.

According to the report, some telecom operators have urged the DoT to push back the date even further to July 1, 2023.

It’s not just telecom network gear under pressure – the Indian government also plans to impose mandatory local testing and certification of 5G smartphones from January 1, 2023 before they are made commercially available to consumers. India plans to test 5G smartphones at accredited local labs.

Indian telecom operators say that the move would impact data consumption, restrict market access and deprive consumers from buying the latest 5G smartphones.

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