GSMA policies proving a spanner in Make in India, Digital India programme

with such biased policies at its disposal the GSMA now is obliquely referred to as a proponent of Great Smokey and Murky Affair

GSMA policies proving a spanner in Make in India, Digital India programme
GSMA policies proving a spanner in Make in India, Digital India programme

This is a great injustice to Manufactures in India who were exploited greatly.  If any manufacturer had to launch only one device, he was forced to purchase BAND 1

Unfair practices by global telecom body Groupe Speciale Mobile Association or the GSMA, particularly TAC pricing structure for Indian mobile manufacturers have played havoc with mobile manufacturers in the country besides proving a spanner in the ambitious Make in India and Digital India programme of the Government.

The Type Allocation Code (TAC) is the initial eight-digit portion of the 15-digit IMEI and 16-digit IMEISV codes used to uniquely identify wireless devices.

No doubt, with such biased policies at its disposal the GSMA now is obliquely referred to as a proponent of Great Smokey and Murky Affair (GSMA).

The liberal and reformist policies of the Government of India have been instrumental along with strong consumer demand in the rapid growth in the Indian telecom sector. The government has enabled easy market access to telecom equipment and a fair and proactive regulatory framework. But all efforts of the government have been apparently shadowed by the murky affairs of the GSMA.

The Telecom Ministry officials in India are in the know of things but reluctant to take any proactive action against the GSMA for reasons best known to them.  A list of queries regarding GSMA’s activities sent two months ago to the Telecom Secretary is yet to be responded.

The New National Telecom Policy 2018, touched many aspects to set the mobile eco-system in the country in a vibrant mode, yet it failed to address this important issue, leaving the mobile manufacturers in a huff.

The deregulation of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) norms has made the sector one of the fastest growing and a top five employment opportunity generator in the country.

GSMA has come in the dock for its unfair charging of millions of dollars for TACs to Indian manufacturers and not charging the same to Mainland Chinese Manufactures since 2010, selling of the data gathered from Indian Manufactures for millions of dollars on yearly basis, and of course data privacy.

The Type Allocation Code (TAC) is the initial eight-digit portion of the 15-digit IMEI and 16-digit IMEISV codes used to uniquely identify wireless devices. TAC identifies a particular model (and often revision) of a wireless telephone for use on a GSM, UMTS or other IMEI-employing wireless networks. The first two digits of the TAC are the Reporting Body Identifier. This indicates the GSMA-approved group that allocated the TAC.

The GSMA charges Manufacturers a fee for the TAC Allocation process in order to recover the costs associated with the administration, promotion, generation, allocation and management of the TACs.

The GSMA administers the TAC allocations scheme according to TS06 as defined by the global mobile network operator and manufacturer community through the GSMA Terminal Steering Group in accordance with 3GPP international standards.

So far as data privacy is concerned even Facebook allows people of opting out of sharing their personal data but the same is not the case with the manufacturers.

The GSMA insists that fees are transparent and consistent across the industry. But the facts available with us contradict their claims. There are hundreds of invoices over years in which no money was charged to Mainland Chinese Manufactures for the issuance of TAC, whereas the unbiased pricing ranging from entry price of USD 2000 for 2 TAC was charged to the Indian Manufacturers.

This is a great injustice to Manufactures in India who were exploited greatly.  If any manufacturer had to launch only one device, he was forced to purchase BAND 1 which was pegged at USD 2000. While the other TAC credit was kept with the GSM Association.

The official price structure of GSMA in 2010 is completely different from what the GSMA claims. While Indian Manufactures were charged $2000 minimum for TAC the Chinese manufacturers have levied no charges.

Refuting such allegations of uneven pricing, GSMA Head of Managed Services Adrian Dodd, said that GSMA has a single price structure that is applicable worldwide.

“GSMA fees are well known and consistent across the industry, USD400 per TAC capped at $30,000 in a 12 month period with the option for large producers to pay a $30,000 annual subscription,” Dodd said.

However, Dodd quickly added that as a matter of absolute priority, “we are currently investigating claims that a third party may be onwardly providing TAC at discounted rates in a particular jurisdiction.”

The GSMA also claims that it is a non-profit organization. But then it’s raising invoices under a separate entity— GSMA Limited —raises serious questions over its credibility and intent.

GSM Association might be a nonprofit organization in the UK but its allied organizations which GSM Association has the shareholdings are for Profit Organization.

The GSMA authorities have also failed to justify or give a rationale behind billing by GSMA Limited which is a for-profit organization. It is more intriguing those responsibilities that were issued to be administered by a nonprofit organization —GSM Association— by manufacturers and national authorities is being billed by a different entity— For-Profit Organization GSMA Limited.

Why both organizations share the same logo, same domain name?  Why is the GSM Association not billing the manufactures directly? Why all the for Profit entities including the one in India GSMA Services India Pvt. Ltd. Share the same logo as of the non-profit association.

What is more surprising in the context is the fact that no GSMA official is ready to open up over whether the GSM Association was given responsibility for issuing TAC or IMEI.

According to the GSMA, it maintains a central electronic database of all TAC allocated under strict security and is ISO 27001 compliant. It denies selling data, instead offers licence access to the entire global database. Governments and mobile operators receive it for free; however, service providers have to pay for the licence.

However, as per the clause (7.6), listed on GSMA Terms and Conditions issued in April 2018, the manufacturers are forced to share their data with the GSMA  which it sells as a license to others in any manner that GSMA deems appropriate.

Whether the GSMA Limited or GSM Association inform manufactures that their data is being sold or licensed or the money profited shared with Manufactures is wrapped under mystery.

So far as data privacy is concerned even Facebook allows people of opting out of sharing their personal data but the same is not the case with the manufacturers.

The GSMA, India office failed to respond to the queries regarding the issue, leaving the claims of Jenny much to be desired.

GSMA has no mechanism to ensure the leakage of data is restricted once it leaves it’s so-called IMEI database.

To a query, GSMA admitted that TAC/IMEI abuse is a difficult problem to solve because the perpetrators are breaking the law. They hide their identity to avoid prosecution and often work from other countries employing complex “grey” trading routes to mask their activities.

It says a concerted effort by the industry, government and GSMA is needed to deal with illegal imports, counterfeiting and IMEI abuse.

Being a body which collets the money from the manufacturers and license their mobile device data to third parties collecting millions of dollars from both sides, it gives GSMA  a greater role to play for the industry, for the government, for the network operators to ensure that IMEI abuse is curtailed. But how fair and how far it has moved in this direction remains a million dollar question.

A bundle of contradictions, GSMA says it tests devices for IMEI security weaknesses and also seeks remedy but keeps mum over questions like—laboratories where they test these devices in India, brands and models they check it for, country-specific devices  they test them for or the IMEI security weakness for the 250 models which the Indian Mobile brands have complained about.

The GSMA also claims to routinely and confidentially deal with IMEI fraudsters but is silent over the mechanism adopted to detect them in India.

GSMA Director (TAC ,IMEI Services) Jenny Lu, however, contends that GSMA routinely operates TAC surveillance in India and elsewhere to detect non-compliant devices and trigger corrective action.

She also claimed that GSMA is working with the Indian government providing information to assist the Customs Agencies to detect and prevent non-compliant devices. However the GSMA, India office failed to respond to the queries regarding the issue, leaving the claims of Jenny much to be desired.

Jenny also informed that the Indian government is working on a Central Equipment Identity Register (C-EIR) to systematically address non-compliance.

Note:
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

1 COMMENT

  1. What is Indian Mobile/Hardware Manufacturers union doing?
    Ever Since the advent of Software industry in India we have not focussed on Hardware and depend on China, Taiwan, S.Korea, Malaysia for all hardware imports!
    To surrender BSNL or get connection Telecom department just do not work. They chat and always engaged on their mobiles. Dumbos manage their customer care.

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