Saturday, May 01, 2021

Telecoms Clinic: Between type approval and substandard telecom devices - ITREALMS

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The need to relate with type-approval of mobile devices reverberated recently with counsel from the regulator. REMMY NWEKE in this report attempts to x-ray the essence and steps taken in type-approving devices and implication of substandard telecom devices while calling on SON to step up.
Preamble:

Recently, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) made what most industry observers described as passionate call to telecommunications consumers in the country to be wary of the kind of mobile devices they buy and use as it could contribute immensely on the kind of quality of service they receive at the end of the day.


NCC also went on to advice that telecom consumers before buying mobile devices could verify their type approval to avoid the attendant hiccups that follows thereafter including multiplicity of complaints to both the mobile operators and the Commission.

Telecommunications experts defined type approval as requirements that exist for products as diverse as mobile phones, marine equipment, automotive industry, or medical equipment. Also, experts at opensource encyclopedia, Wikipedia.org, described type approval simply as meaning that the product is certified to meet certain requirements for its type, which in this case has to do with telecommunications.

According to the Type Approval Guidelines sighted by 
ITREALMS and issued in pursuant to the Type Approval Regulations 2007, NCC said it applies to all equipment holders and are intended to identify the procedures to be followed before communications equipment also referred to as “products” is used or supplied.

How to apply for Type Approval
As stated in the 2007 Guidelines, prospective equipment holder which often is known as manufacturer or designated agents in that capacity must initiate an application for Type Approval using the Commission’s standard type approval application form, available from the Commission on request.

Also, potential equipment holder has the opportunity of having one application to cover a range of related products, provided that the application clearly identifies the distinct products and the compliance of each product is supported by the appropriate test results and other supporting documentation.

Additionally, NCC said in the 22-page guidelines, it behooves on holders to have recognized manufacturing brand names, product names and model numbers to be separately identified in the list of approved communications equipment to be maintained by the Commission pursuant to Regulation 5.

Just as an application for Type Approval must be accompanied by a Declaration of Conformity in the form set out in Appendix 1 to the aforementioned Guidelines. Whereas other information to be submitted with the application is described in some sections of these Guidelines.

ITREALMS exclusively gathered that an application that is complete will normally be processed within one (1) month of its receipt by the Commission. Although NCC may reject any incomplete application or that are submitted by persons who are in contravention of any regulations, decisions, directions or orders issued by the Commission or any other requirements under the Act. And following approval, NCC will make a corresponding entry in the list of approved communications equipment to be maintained by the Commission pursuant to Regulation 5.

Speaking recently on the efficacy of type-approved mobile devices in the country, NCC through the Director, Technical Standard and Network Integrity, Engr. Bako Wakil informed ITREALMS that the verification of type approved devices is not restricted to only handsets but comprising tablets, laptops among other mobile devices.
Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, EVC, NCC

What are mobile devices in telecoms?

Mobile telecommunications are the process of sending, transmitting and receiving information over a distance with the purpose of communicating. This form of signal transmission takes place with assistance of some sort of mobile device, such as a cellular phone, computer, or other wired or wireless device, according to experts at EasyTech.

Offering further counsel, Engr. Wakil, noted that telecom consumers could make this verification of type approved devices on NCC’s website prior to completion of payment for any device.

A video clip from NCC monitored by ITREALMS, revealed that this became imperative for telecommunications consumers to verify their desired mobile devices before purchase due to associated disadvantage of using hard-earned money to buy substandard telecom devices which in turn have negative effects on service delivery thereby increasing consumers complaints which could be avoided ab nitio.

As said by him, the type-approval process is to certify, checkmate and reduce the importation and usage of sub-standard telecommunications devices in Nigeria. Stressing that “If substandard mobile devices were not checkmated in the Nigerian telecom industry, they could wreak a lot of havoc in the sector and consumers at large.” Wakil outlined some of the challenges likely to face consumers in event of usage of substandard mobile devices to include the issue of radiation which could radiate beyond the specified or required percentage, thereby causing harm to the end-user, in addition to producing noise and interferences in the network.

“Oftentimes, telecom consumers complain of poor network services, while, unknown to them, it is the quality of their mobile devices that is the cause of the problem. This is the reason the commission is appealing to every consumer to check the NCC website before purchasing any model of their desired devices. We have model number list of the type-approved mobile devices either mobile phones, tablets, or laptops, or any devices that will be connected to the national network,” he said.

As at the time of filing this report, ITREALMS exclusively gathered that there are some 1653 handsets and 4,560 equipment so far with type-approval by NCC. Equally, the emphasis of each of the Type Approval Standards could be identified with regard to whether they deal mainly with safety, electromagnetic compatibility or physical interoperability which could cover optical, electrical or radio systems.
Engr. Ike Nnamani, President of ATCON

Economic factor increases substandard patronage:

The director also pointed out that substandard mobile devices seem to be on high demand because they appear to be cheaper, thereby encouraging sales and more patronage from unsuspecting telecom consumers. This he further attributed to the state of the nation’s economy which is one major factor responsible for the influx of fake and substandard devices.

Consumer experts simply defined substandard as “below the usual or required standard” which for the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) intensified the enforcement against substandard products using its enabling laws. The SON Act 2015 provides for criminal proceeding against any person who violates the law by using a fake mark or not complying with the applicable industrial mark.

Recently, SON has seized some N600m worth of substandard tyres and destroyed substandard cables worth several millions of naira and rated locally made cables higher in standards.

The Director in-charge of Compliance and Inspectorate at SON, Engr. Obiora Manafa, said the substandard cables were seized during SON’s operatives’ raids on warehouses across the state. Explaining that the absence of SON from the ports and other critical points of entry into the country have confined the regulator to relying on only its intelligence network to apprehending importers or dealers in substandard products.

“When we get information that a warehouse is keeping cables, we go there and carry out tests on the cables, if they fail the tests, we seal the warehouse until we have evacuated the products to our warehouse for further tests and court order for destruction,” Manafa said.

Although a replica effort on telecommunications sector is yet to be seen where substandard mobile devices will be fished out and destroyed despite the cost implication, hence the advice by telecom regulator comes handy for all telecom consumer to take seriously.
Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, Chairman, ALTON

Effects of substandard on telecom infrastructure:

Reacting on the need for Nigerians to verify type-approval of their intension to purchase mobile devices to reduce the influx of substandard version, the President of the Association of the Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Engr. Ike Nnamani, noted that the substandard handsets are not good for network resources since they take more power from the network to be able to operate thereby draining network resources.

“They also lead to perceived poor quality of service especially when used for voice calls as the voice quality will be poor both to the caller and the receiver and this negatively impacts subscribers perception of the network operators,” he said.

Nnamani noted that all equipment sold and used in the country must be type approved by the regulator and those found to be selling or distributing substandard handsets should be prosecuted based on the applicable laws that currently exist.

Corroborating Nnamani, the Chairman of Association Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) chairman, Engr. Gbenga Adebayo, also told 
ITREALMS that substandard handsets mobile devices definitely will impact on quality of service and lowly cause damages to network elements.

“If the device does not meet the quality approval standard of NCC, it will most likely degrade the quality of services and lead to poor user experience,” Adebayo declared.

On the way out of the woods on influx of substandard handsets in the country, ALTON chairman called for discouragement of this kind of handsets, by curtailing the flow of supply into grey market and enforce quality of standard protocols.

Summary:

Above all, the type approval of devices is NCC’s primarily empowered by the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 to establish and enforce standards for all telecommunications equipment in operation in the Federal Republic of Nigeria to ensure that they operate seamlessly and safely within the Nigerian telecommunications environment.

NCC in order to ensure maximum interoperability and affordability for consumers, the Type Approval standards set by NCC are based on international standards from; The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and its International Special Committee on Radio Interference (CISPR), The European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) and The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). ITREALMS gathered that Nigeria is an associate member of IEC through the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and could become an associate member of CENELEC and ETSI.

Hence, all equipment manufacturers, vendors and operators, including customer devices such as mobile phones and wireless adapters, must therefore ensure that their equipment conform to the applicable standards as mandated by the Commission before bringing them into Nigeria.

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