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India to test telecom gear as tension rises with China

Telecom equipment in India will have to be tested under rigorous new rules as tension mounts over the use of Chinese products by the country's service providers.

From October 1, any transmission terminal gear will have to be tested by the Telecom Engineering Center, the research and development wing of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).

Any multiplexing equipment, passive optical network (PON) broadband systems and feedback devices will need to be tested before being deployed.

The tests risk delaying the expansion of 4G networks and even the rollout of 5G infrastructure in future.

It could deal a blow to an Indian economy that has become increasingly reliant on communications networks during the coronavirus pandemic.

Telecom equipment is usually tested by global labs, with kit makers providing self-certification before it is deployed.

India introduced its own testing regime in 2010, prompted by security concerns about telecom imports, particularly from China, although rules were subsequently relaxed.

A project to set up an in-house testing lab has been delayed several times in the past, but recent tension on the India-China border has put the issue at the forefront of policymaking.

Recently, the government barred state-owned telcos BSNL and MTNL from using equipment made by Huawei and ZTE, two Chinese vendors. The move was said to be in keeping with an Indian policy to be "Atmanirbhar," or self-reliant, as much as possible.

At the same time, India has started to check consignments arriving from China and Hong Kong, including smartphones and other devices.

In the last financial year, India imported goods worth $70.3 billion from China.


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The DoT also seems to be working on provisions that would require vendors to provide source code for every item of equipment deployed. The measure is seen as part of the government's renewed focus on network security.

Vendors are uncomfortable with the rule because source code is commercially sensitive. Sweden's Ericsson has written to authorities to express concern about the move, according to reports.

It is still unclear if that rule would apply to all vendors or only those based in India.

Huawei last year opened a cybersecurity lab in Belgium allowing customers to review the source code of network gear. The Chinese vendor has been trying to address security concerns over the use of its equipment.

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— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading
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