Indian smartphone companies accuse GSMA of favoring Chinese brands

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The Indian smartphone market is dominated by Chinese smartphone manufacturers, which hold three of the top five positions in India in terms of smartphone shipment last year. With the Oppo sub-brand Relame pushing to acquire a major share of the Indian market, Chinese smartphones are expected to obtain more shares this year. At the meantime, Indian smartphone manufacturers have been pushed to a corner and Micromax is the only company to hold its position in the top-5 segment. This condition of the Indian smartphone manufacturer in India can be attributed to the company’s inability to adopt the latest technologies, nevertheless, they are accusing GSMA of bias in favor of the Chinese companies for their deteriorated sales.

Several Indian manufacturers have put the blame on GSMA— a trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide, accusing it of favoring Chinese smartphone manufacturers. According to a report by Economic Times, Indian companies have accused GSMA of offering huge discounts to Chinese manufacturers while they have to pay full Type Allocation Codes allotment fees.

The Type Allocation Code (TAC) is the initial eight-digit portion of the 15-digit IMEI and 16-digit IMEI codes used to uniquely identify wireless devices. The report notes that GSMA is demanded to refund about $5-6 million by Indian companies for their cumulative payments between 2010 to 2017, a period when Chinese counterparts were not charged at all.

Indian companies that have protested these charges include Celkon, Micromax, DataWind, HiTech, Karbonn, Lemon, Maxx, and Ziox. These manufacturers have sought out for a full refund of the fee they had to pay for TAC allotment and have also alleged that this inequality against them has led to an “anti-competitive environment“.

GSMA has admitted to this difference in fees, however, it has refuted the allegations of bias. The telecom body said that it is “working with the Indian government and relevant handset manufacturers to understand their concerns.” GSMA has denied to put out more details on this issue citing confidentiality. However, it cited “regulator barriers outside of its control” which made it charge a different fee in different regions until 2017.

Chinese manufacturers have gradually acquired the smartphone share in India from Indian phone makers over the years. Whether this is because of the unfair practice by GSMA or the inability of the Indian manufacturers to adapt to the changing environment in the tech market is yet to be seen.

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