India’s DoT delays import of Wi-Fi-enabled devices from China

Wi-Fi-enabled devices

India’s Department of Telecoms has rolled back approvals to import of Wi-Fi-enabled devices from China for over six months, industry executives said, setting back launching plans of mobile phone companies including Apple, Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo, laptop makers HP, Dell and Lenovo, and telecom equipment vendors Nokia and Ericsson.

“There are no approvals involved. The portal just generates an automated certificate after the fee is processed within 7-10 days,” a company executive familiar with the matter told The Economic Times.

“DoT must break the silence on whether they are looking for additional checks and balances… But halting the process altogether is stopping hi-tech products coming into the market, especially when consumers most necessarily need these gadgets.”

The DoT has emerged as the latest arm to mount pressure on electronics and telecom imports from China, alongside the customs and the Bureau of Indian Standards. Wireless technology such as Bluetooth-powered devices, smartphones, printers, and headphone are imported into India after receiving an equipment type approval (ETA) certification based on self-declaration by the importer.

However, these imports of Wi-Fi-enabled devices have backed up after the wireless planning and coordination (WPC) wing of DoT has halted these certificates since November last year, all while not responding to calls from companies to resolve the issue, executives highlighted to The Economic Times.

The Cellular Operators’ Association of India and the India Cellular & Electronics Association have reached out separately to DoT, requesting immediate release of applications, which have piled up to over 80 now. Lenovo alone has more than 40 such applications pending, one person said.

“This is a non-trade barrier that WPC is leveraging to create unnecessary pressure on Chinese companies, which will eventually hurt the consumers who are being deprived of the latest hi-tech launches,” another company executive told The Economic Times.

“The government must realize these measures will not lead to the immediate decoupling from China that they are aiming for.”

These events are likely due to the tension of ties between both countries that manifested in the Galwan Valley clashes back in May 2020; since then, India has been strict toward companies to remove their reliance on Chinese imports.

In July 2020, the customs department halted approvals for all Chinese cargo, creating a backlog of almost 15 days at major ports. Chinese phone companies including Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo and Realme cancelled import orders.