The official reason given by the Indian government to begin testing all imported telecom products, such as mobile phones, SIM cards, and 3G and 4G base stations, is to prevent malicious code and causing havoc for Indian authorities.
According to a report Monday by The Times of India, the Department of Telecom identified 25 telecom products to be screened at an authorized test lab, of which 12 had been singled out as "high risk items" to be checked from October 1.
But, exactly how the government plans to set up this testing lab and with what kind of procedures and protocols remain to be seen, as there currently are no global standards for conducting security tests on handsets, SIM cards, and telecom equipment. Furthermore, nothing has been said about who will set up the testing facility, though the telecom department had indicated Wipro was interested in investing in the lab.
The testing of imported telecom equipment could potentially jeopardize local operators' future expansion of services, especially in rural India. Furthermore, this could also result in a delay of newly launched products reaching consumers, and in some cases, they might never receive clearance at all.
What's interesting to note is that international mobile phone manufacturers, such as Nokia and Samsung, already assemble their devices in India, though the parts come fabricated from other parts of Asia such as China and Taiwan. Consumers can easily note the difference in the price of the device. Devices assembled in India are more affordable as there are less import duties, versus imported devices where there is a higher tax tariff.
That said, this is clearly a step taken by the Indian government to possibly prevent unauthorized access to networks in India as well as the interception of voice, data, and SMS, on devices. It's interesting to note, at the same time, the government is implementing its central monitoring system (CMS), to keep tabs on people of interest as deemed necessary.
India is located in a tough neighborhood on the globe . To the left, it has a love-hate relationship with Pakistan since 1947, and of late, China has also been coming on the radar. Considering the amount of electronics and components imported from China, I would suspect this action is taken directly against China. That said, you can purchase Chinese devices in India, and China's Huawei already has installed network infrastructure in India for local operator, Airtel.The other question that remains is, if the Indian government decides to start testing imported telecom equipment, what about all of the existing imported telecom equipment currently used in India? Will they be subject to testing too, and if so, what would happen if these devices or equipment fail the test?
Perhaps this is why the Indian government is also looking toward developing its own sub-$100 smartphone.