The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), in a bid to force local manufacturing of telecom gear has now recommended that India aim for 'net zero imports' of telecom equipment by 2022. The Indian regulator also proposed the creation of a Rs 1000 crore fund to promote design, testing and production in this space. The recommendations, which are 18 in total are entirely aimed at transforming the telecom manufacturing sector from being "import-dependent" to a global hub of indigenous manufacturing. Trai also noted that while telecom services have grown at a scorching pace, telecom equipment manufacturing has not kept up.
"India should aim to achieve the objective of 'net zero imports of telecommunication equipment' by 2022. For this purpose, Telecom Equipment Manufacturing Council (TEMC), should identify and recommend specific areas of priorities," Trai said in a statement.
According to data available, the export of 'telecom instrument' stood at USD 1201.7 million, while imports totalled USD 2,1847.92 million in 2017-18. Most of the demand for telecom equipment has been met through imports, Trai noted.
Trai has also recommended that the progress of indigenous telecommunication equipment manufacturing in the country be monitored in the Telecom Department at least at the level of Member, Telecom Commission.
It also said a dedicated unit (within the department) be made responsible for facilitation of manufacturing related activities. It has also emphasised that indigenous products be given preference in all public telecom network for security reasons under preferential market access policy.
Trai has also favoured the creation of a Telecom Research and Development Fund with an initial corpus of Rs 1000 crore to give a fillip to research, innovation, design, testing, certification and manufacturing of indigenous telecom equipment.
Trai has also asked the Department of Telecom to consider setting up Telecom Entrepreneurship Promotion Fund (TEPF) and Telecom Manufacturing Promotion Fund (TMPF). The recommendations also pitched for setting up of Telecommunication Equipment Development Board (TEDB) under the department for faster decision making on funding and incentives.
Trai also called for streamlining of permissions for trials or pilots of new technologies or products. "Alternate Dispute Resolution Framework for time-bound resolution of patent licensing disputes should be institutionalised in the country," Trai said.
Mandatory testing and certification of the telecom equipment in the country should be started at the earliest, it said.
It's further said that all telecom products meant for use in the telecommunication network or by consumers and marketed in the country should be classified as either fully finished imported products or indigenous products.
"Indigenous products should be further classified into Made in India Products, Designed In India Products or Designed and Made in India Products," it said.
In addition, Telecom Department should immediately review its PMA (preferential market access) policy, issued in October 2012, so that products specified under the policy and the value addition norms are synced to market realities.
"PMA policy should be made applicable for all public telecom networks to address the national security concerns. Telecom service providers should be incentivised for deploying indigenous telecom products, beyond the quantities to be mandated under the PMA, by giving them graded incentives," it said to PTI.
Having said that, it will be interesting to see how these recommendations from Trai progress in the future.