DoT asks Tech Mahindra to set up $100 million test lab for network gears

 KOLKATA: The telecom department (DoT) has asked Tech MahindraBSE 0.36 % to set up a $100-million (Rs 550 crore) test lab for ensuring that network gear used by mobile phone companies in India is free from bugs and malicious software used for spying.

DoT officials recently visited Tech Mahindra's telecom devices testing lab in Noida, which is managed by its wholly-owned arm CanvasM. The Noida facility is the only devices test lab in India certified by London-based Global Certification Forum, the leading international agency for certifying telecom devices.

A top Tech Mahindra executive, requesting anonymity, said the company had been approached by DoT and the
Cellular Operators Association of India, the industry body representing GSM operators, for setting up the testing lab to address the government's security concerns. He added that the testing lab could be housed at CanvasM's Noida facility, though a decision has not been taken yet.

"We've told DoT about our keenness to set up such a lab provided there is adequate return on investment," said the executive.

At present, Tech Mahindra tests mobile consumer devices, such as handsets, tablets and data cards, across brands at its Noida lab. It is now working with key stakeholders to develop relevant standards and tools to also test network gear like base stations, routers, switches and transmission systems.

The DoT wants to hasten the test lab venture, which has been hanging fire for three years. The Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, which was originally tasked with the job of setting it up, has not executed it on time. Which is why, DoT now has to extend the April 1, 2013, deadline for mobile operators who were mandated to use telecom gear tested by an authorised lab in India. COAI director general
Rajan Mathews said: "Tech Mahindra is keen to set up such a facility since they already run several test labs in the country and overseas."

But Tech Mahindra executives said the proposed test lab could be implemented only after the funding model is formalised through discussions with DoT and key stakeholders. "We couldn't handle the entire funding alone since equipment for testing network elements costs millions of dollars and this project involves multiple stakeholders," said another company executive.

The matter is expected to be discussed in a meeting with DoT in early April where key executives of Tech Mahindra, mobile phone companies, global network vendors and COAI representatives will be present.