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According to the latest developments, the Indian government is reportedly planning to start local screening the imported telecom gear used in mobile phone networks and handsets from April 1. Following several implementation delays over three-and-a-half years, the move might finally come to effect next year.
The Economic Times has reported that the government will be assigning labs belonging to a state-owned quality control agency, Standardisation Testing & Quality Certification (STQC), to undertake such screening of imported mobile network elements, feature phones, and smartphones in the interest of national security. Just that you know, the STQC is part of the ministry of electronics and IT.
An official explaining the process stated that the local screening will initially be carried out in phases by identifying network gear deemed most vulnerable as there are multiple categories of such telecom equipment that go into mobile phone networks.
Moreover, according to another official, the government is also focused on ensuring that local screening does not create supply-chain bottlenecks or disrupt mobile network rollouts or expansions.
Going forward, the Department of Telecommunications also plans to involve private sector companies in setting up more accredited labs for sharing the in-country screening exercise of imported network gear and also develop a full-blown local testing ecosystem.
However, an industry expert, who recently participated in a meeting with telecom department officials on the issue said private sector enthusiasm for investing in local clearing houses remained lukewarm in the absence of a viable funding mechanism.
The local screening of mobile network elements has been repeatedly deferred in the absence of a world-class local clearing house in the past. Global trade bodies in the US and Europe have also deplored India's decision to perform local security checks on globally certified imported network equipment.
They had raised serious concerns about the system as double testing of the same equipment would not only delay supply of critical telecom products but also increase the cost of telecom services that will hurt consumers.