The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has extended the timelines to implement mandatory testing and certification of telecommunication equipment (MTCTE). According to a notification by the Telecommunication Engineering Centre (TEC), the rules which were scheduled to come into effect from July 1, 2023, will now apply from October 1, 2023, and January 1, 2024, based on different products.

The guidelines provide that every telecom equipment must undergo mandatory testing and certification before it is put to sale and used for network rollouts. The implementation of such a regime is key to ensuring quality and secured equipment are used in the networks. In June 2022, the TEC notified the extension of the date of MTCTE phase 3 and phase 4 products to July 1, 2023 from July 1, 2022.

As per the latest notification, the implementation date for mandatory certification of 12 products such as base station for cellular network and optical fibre cable covered under MTCTE phases 3 and 4, has been extended by six months to January 1, 2024. On the other hand, the mandatory certification of 32 products such as internet of things (IoT) gateway, tracking device, and routers has been extended by three months to October 1, 2023.

The DoT has also extended the last date of acceptance of test reports issued by labs accredited by International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation signatories from non-border sharing countries by six months for technical parameters only – from June 30, 2023 to December 31, 2023 for 10 products including base station and repeater for cellular network, SIM, compact cellular network, radio broadcast receiver, optical fibre-single mode, optical fibre cable and satellite communication equipment.

The government has extended the deadline even after the task force set up by DoT recommended against such a move. The task force, led by Rakesh Bhatnagar, director general, VoICE consortium, said that postponing the implementation would not only hinder the growth of the domestic telecommunications industry but also compromise the quality and safety of the equipment being used.

Industry reactions:

According to the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), these extensions would aid the industry which has been facing significant challenges in the operationalisation of phases 3 and 4 of the MTCTE, primarily owing to issues like non-availability and limited capability of testing labs, absence of defined timelines for testing procedures, and lack of benchmarks for both testing charges and certification charges. The delays and complexities of these procedures could potentially impact the implementation schedules of the 5G rollouts and fiberisation targets of India. The industry highly values the need for the testing and certification guidelines to be instrumental in ensuring appropriate quality and security standards of the equipment being deployed in the networks. It is essential to enhance consumer trust, promote competition and encourage innovation in the industry.

Commenting on the extension, Lt. Gen. Dr. S.P. Kochhar, Director General, COAI, said, “COAI appreciates this positive decision made by the DoT and TEC, taking into consideration the industry’s earnest submissions and keeping in mind the critical challenges faced by the sector towards compliance on the earlier notified timelines of phases 3 and 4 of the MTCTE. We believe that the government has found merit in our submissions and taken a practical decision based on the ground realities in regard to the testing and certification ecosystem for telecom equipment in the country. We thank the government and assure our complete support and all requisite efforts to ensure that the revised timelines are met effectively.”