Could India’s test regime stall 5G rollout?

Could India’s test regime stall 5G rollout?

An interesting story recently highlighted in the Indian press raises the possibility that India’s ongoing 4G expansion and 5G rollout may face an additional problem apart from unattractive pricing and arguments over spectrum allocation. Another issue, reports suggest, could be testing.

The Economic Times cites (unnamed) senior industry executives who have suggested that the Department of Telecommunications’ (DoT) insistence on the application of the Mandatory Testing & Certification of Telecom Equipment (MTCTE) regime could disrupt rollouts.

All imported network equipment needs to be tested for safety at local labs – and only those local labs recognised by the DoT’s technical arm, the Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC) – by 1 July.

The telecom industry argument seems to be that local labs don’t have the expertise to undertake comprehensive testing of the latest imported network kit in the time allowed.

This has been blamed on lack of training due to the pandemic, shortage of skilled manpower and restrictions on international travel. Industry figures suggest that this approach could end up disrupting equipment supplies to operators and in turn adversely affecting both 4G and 5G rollouts.

The fear seems to be that a rush to testing, with the holdups that may cause, could delay early network rollouts planned for the August-September period – assuming 5G spectrum auctions go ahead in June or July as promised.

It now looks like some industry figures want the in-country testing deadline of 1 July to be extended to 1 January 2023 – or even 1 July 2023.

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