Jio, Airtel, Vodafone Idea ring alarm bells of 5G phone shortage

Leading telcos have warned that consumers may see a sharp slowdown in the availability of latest 5G
mobile phones with the government calling for mandatory local testing and certification of such devices
from January 1, 2023, before they are made available in the country.

Operators have informed the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) that such a move would hit
data consumption, restrict market access and deprive consumers from buying the latest 5G phones. This
scenario would be ironic, given that India’s top mobile carriers are readying to pump in dollars in the upcoming 5G spectrum auctions, likely to be conducted around May-June and roll out the next-gen
wireless broadband networks later in the FY23.

Telecom operators have also cautioned that any move to test and certify all 5G smart phones at
accredited local labs would also hinder India’s ambitions of becoming a global handset manufacturing
base. Telcos and global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have urged DoT to stop the TEC from
implementing the planned local screening of 5G smart phones and other smart consumer electronic

Telecom companies and OEMS, in fact, have urged DoT and TEC not to interfere in mobile
manufacturing and ensure the mobile industry remains within the ambit of the existing light-touch
regulatory framework of the Ministry of IT & Electronics (MeitY) and Bureau of Industrial Standards(BIS).

Under these rules, consumer electronics products currently are required to be registered and
conform to India’s safety standards. A senior telco executive said, “TEC’s latest decision is causing unease and uncertainty in the industry as any potential disruption in the availability of 5G smart phones would automatically slow down the pace of adoption of 5G services in India, and also reduce overall data consumption levels, which would ultimately hit telco ARPUs”.

Telecom Secretary, Rajaraman, though, recently said that testing and certification of telecom products
must be an integral part of the manufacturing ecosystem to ensure India becomes a global
manufacturing hub. The COAI, on its part, has argued that de-linking the consumer electronics industry from the TEC-MTCTE certification regime would smoothen the industry’s path for investment through the production-linked incentive (PLI) scheme, especially as India is poised to become a global leader in mobile handset manufacturing.