Telecom operators urgently seek intervention against new e-waste rules in India

The rules mandate the removal of older telecom equipment from towers, but operators argue that they were not consulted and anticipate adverse effects on current networks and future expansions.

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Indian telecom operators are urgently seeking assistance from the telecom department to prevent the implementation of new e-waste management rules. The rules, which came into effect on 1 April 2023, require the removal of older telecom equipment from towers, but the operators argue that they were not consulted and the rules will harm existing networks and future deployments. 

According to the new regulation, telecom and broadcasting equipment are classified as e-waste. The telecom operators argue that the rules will negatively impact existing 2G and 4G networks and future 5G deployments. They are particularly concerned about the impact on rural customers who rely on 2G services. Replacing the equipment could lead to network disruption and increased operator costs.

The operators also find the recycling targets set by the rules unrealistic and believe that assessing the lifecycle data of products will be time-consuming. There is no clear mechanism for collecting and recycling telecom e-waste between the operators, tower companies, and equipment manufacturers. 

Defining the average life of telecom products is another challenge, as different types of equipment have different lifespans. Additionally, the operators are facing issues with customs withholding critical shipments of 5G equipment due to authorization requirements under the e-waste rules. 

The telecom industry believes that it should have been consulted during the formulation of the rules to understand the impact on business and network operations, as they provide essential telecommunications services that operate 24/7 with zero downtime. They fear the e-waste rules may have unintended consequences, including service disruptions.