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DoT wants to bring mobiles under Telegraph Act

Department of Telecom (DoT) is planning a mobile safety standard that will be applicable to all mobile devices, whether made in this country or abroad, reports Business Standard. Once these standards have been accepted, all mobile devices sold in India need to display the specific absorption rate (SAR) value and radiation emitted by a cellphone. The department has not revealed what other information these devices will have to display as part of the certification.

The government is planning to amend the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951 and include mobile under this category, so that testing labs in India can certify these devices. This developments come at a time when BIS is framing safety and performance standards for locally manufactured cellphones and imported devices. DoT is also establishing a Telecom Testing & Security Certification centre, which will lay down local testing ground rules. As of now, there are no accredited local test labs for mobile devices, so the chances of these steps being implemented in the neat future are slim.

At of now, the permitted SAR value in mobilephones is 1.6 watts a kg (w/kg) over a gramme of human tissue and was fixed in 2012. Previously, the SAR value for handsets was two w/kg over 1g of tissue. In the proposed norms, companies will have to mention the actual SAR measurement value for a particular device and related information in the user manuals. Besides, when ‘*#07#’ is keyed in, handsets should display the maximum SAR level of the device, as mentioned in the user guide.

Standards wars

The government had proposed the creation of new standards for electronics industry in India to target imported electronics, that might affect importing of devices such as iPad here.

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The new focus on standards is a shift from the tariff-based protectionist measures used by countries, to using technicalities for controlling goods that are imported. This announcement seems to be a response to mega trade treaties such as Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), that eliminates import duties and other tariffs on imported electronics.

As per the new proposal, electronics goods that are imported and sold in India will need to comply with Bureau of Indian Standard and get certified by them starting July 1. Many US-based companies are of the opinion that India is rushing it out, though the date has been extended twice already. There hasn’t been any official announcement if the mobile standards will also be included under the electronics standards or not.

What is needed?

While displaying radiation information is a good move, BIC and DoT really need to look at qualitative testing of mobile devices sold in India, especially at the low end. There are several companies that bulk import devices manufactured in China and these devices take several month to fix them when they fail. This is a problem since failure rate is considerably high with several Indian manufacturers, from what we have heard.

BIC could look at random sampling and test these devices before they go for sale in the country. However, it does not have mobile certification labs yet and it is not clear if it will have enough resources to undertake such an operation when they are opened.

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