MTCTE: Need for Immediate Adoption for Ensuring a Robust Digital India

MTCTE implementation

By Dr. Jaijit Bhattacharya

MTCTE stands for Mandatory Testing and Certification of Telecommunication Equipment, and it has been a crucial regulatory framework that ensures the safety, reliability, and compatibility of telecommunication equipment. It is part of a larger vision of the government to improve the quality of products being used within the country. Most advanced economies have some form or the other of MTCTE that is used to ensure the quality of telecom equipment used, as well as acts as a deterrent to poor quality imports.

In this context, any delay in the implementation of MTCTE would be detrimental to the quality of the telecom network in India in general and the quality of the network that will come out of the BharatNet 3 project, which is one of the largest telecom projects in the world.

When India is planning for a hyper-scale digital connectivity network, it is crucial that bring in the appropriate standards that are required for maintaining high-quality standards in the telecommunications sector.

The MTCTE was introduced as a comprehensive program by regulatory authorities to address the increasing complexities and risks associated with telecommunication equipment. It establishes a rigorous testing and certification process for devices such as wired and wireless telecom equipment, routers, PON (passive optical network), transmission equipment, and other telecom products. The primary objectives of MTCTE include safeguarding public health, ensuring network interoperability, reducing electromagnetic interference, and combating counterfeit or substandard products. The program requires manufacturers to mandatorily comply with technical standards and submit their equipment for testing and certification before entering the market.

Therefore, any delay in MTCTE adoption would have significant implications for telecommunication industry players and the life and quality of telecom networks that we get as citizens. While some argue that the program imposes additional costs and delays on manufacturers, it is equally essential to consider the long-term benefits it provides. Consumers stand to bear the brunt of poor-quality telecom networks arising out of delayed MTCTE implementation, as the program serves as a crucial protective measure for consumers, assuring them of the safety, reliability, and compatibility of the telecommunication devices that could compromise user experience, network security, and even personal safety. It is similar to the ISI mark that consumers check for in consumer electrical products. For the telecom network that end consumers cannot see, the MTCTE would be the equivalent of the ISI mark.

Quality control and certification programs like MTCTE are vital for protecting national security interests. Telecommunication equipment that has not undergone rigorous testing and certification poses significant risks, including vulnerabilities to cyber threats and potential surveillance issues. Multiple rounds of extensions of the MTCTE implementation deadline could give the impression of a soft stand on quality, encouraging manufacturers to avoid quality upgradation and continue to produce shoddy equipment.

‘BharatNet’, one of the world’s largest digital connectivity programmes, which is targeting to provide future-ready broadband connectivity to rural India, would clearly benefit from immediate implementation of MTCTE. Ensuring high-quality equipment is crucial for meeting the project’s ambitious goals and providing rural communities with reliable internet access. Any delay in the adoption of MTCTE would definitely impact the BharatNet network quality and degrade the connectivity in rural areas.

With the rapid advancement of technology and the ever-increasing demand for connectivity, maintaining robust quality control measures is imperative. If MTCTE does not push the industry towards higher quality equipment, it would lead to the Indian telecom industry being saddled with the equivalent of “Ambassador cars”, denting the competitiveness of the sector. This would hamper innovation and hinder the growth of emerging technologies such as 5G. Additionally, international collaborations and harmonization efforts for global standards would get disrupted as India would be out of step with the global cutting-edge technologies in telecom, leading to fragmented markets and compatibility issues between different regions.

Private players, recognizing the importance of the initiative, have invested in setting up testing facilities to support the certification process. Extending the MTCTE adoption deadline on multiple occasions signals the industry players that their investments and efforts to comply with the MTCTE certification process were unwise business decisions, as inferior quality telecom equipment importers can get away with dumping poor quality telecom equipment in the country. This perception could erode the trust between private players and regulatory authorities, potentially discouraging future participation and investments in testing facilities.

While discussions surrounding the extensions to the MTCTE adoption deadline continue, it is crucial to consider the potential consequences of delaying this program. The impact could be far-reaching, affecting industry stakeholders, consumers, and the telecommunication sector as a whole. By enforcing MTCTE without any further delay, industry players can ensure compliance with quality standards, fostering fair competition and customer trust. Consumers benefit from safe and reliable telecommunication equipment, protecting them from potential risks. Ultimately, striking a balance between industry needs, consumer protection, and technological progress is essential to shape the future of telecommunication equipment regulation effectively. Hence, adopting MTCTE on an immediate basis would not only improve the quality of telecom infrastructure in the country but will also encourage a stronger domestic industry, while discouraging inferior imports from being dumped into the country.

This article first appeared in ET Government,