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Singapore-USA MRA Saves Time and Cost for Telecom Equipment Exporters

Singapore has become the first country in Asia, and the third in the world (after the European Union and Canada), to operate a Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) on telecom equipment certification with the United States of

Singapore has become the first country in Asia, and the third in the world (after the European Union and Canada), to operate a Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) on telecom equipment certification with the United States of America.

Marking another major milestone in trade relations between Singapore and the United States since both countries inked a Free Trade Agreement in May 2003, the MRA provides for direct entry of telecommunications equipment - such as telephones, radio pagers, Wireless Broadband Access (WBA) equipment, and Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) modems - into either market without the need for additional testing and certification.

"Under the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Telecommunications Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) implemented between the US and Singapore, products can be tested and certified in the United States for conformance with Singapore's technical requirements," said a US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) spokesperson. "The certified products may be shipped directly to Singapore without any further testing or certification."

In return, the MRA obligates the US to permit parties in Singapore to test and authorise equipment based on US technical requirements. This goes a long way towards promoting bilateral market access and competition in the provision of telecommunications products and electronic equipment.

Saving Time and Money

The MRA reduces the burden on industry players, in terms of time and cost resulting from delays associated with testing and approval requirements for products marketed in both countries.

By allowing Singapore exporters to apply for a United States? Federal Communications Commission (FCC) certificate locally, these exporters can enjoy faster time-to-market, saving up to 10 days. Cost savings of 30 to 40% (or between S$1,000 to S$2,000 per model submitted for certification) are also to be expected.

The Singapore-US MRA will also call for more frequent exchanges between the two countries for updates on regulatory requirements. In this way, manufacturers can be better informed during the early stages of product design, and ensure that their products comply with the necessary regulatory requirements.

Such time and cost savings spell good news for Singapore?s telecom industry, as local exports become more competitive vis-?-vis those from other countries.

Where It All Started

Phase One of the Singapore-USA MRA commenced operations in May 2001. Since then, tests on telecom equipment conducted by accredited laboratories in Singapore are accepted by the United States and vice versa. The operation of Phase Two of the MRA on 2 June 2006 further boosts bilateral trade relations by allowing Singapore exporters to apply for a United States' Federal Communications Commission (FCC) certificate locally, and vice versa.

To date, 26 test laboratories and 4 certification bodies in the US are recognised by Singapore under the Phase One and Phase Two MRAs respectively.

 "We are pleased that Phase Two of the Singapore-USA MRA is now in operation," said Mr Leong Keng Thai, Deputy Chief Executive and Director-General (Telecoms) of IDA. "With the streamlining of export procedures, we hope to see more innovative local telecom products launched overseas, as part of the vision of Singapore's 10-year infocomm masterplan, Intelligent Nation 2015. IDA will continue to explore opportunities to foster stronger bilateral ties with countries to boost telecom trade."

As of 2005, the United States is Singapore's fourth largest trading partner for telecom equipment. The total telecom trade between Singapore and USA in 2005 was valued at S$4.6 billion, an increase of 21% compared to 2004.

Industry Response

Industry players have greeted the news of the MRA very positively. According to Lord John Edgecumbe Shazell, President of the Association of Telecommunications Industry of Singapore (ATiS), the association has received positive feedback from its members, who comprise equipment manufacturers and value-added resellers. "The Singapore-USA MRA is a positive step in improving the process of trade in telecommunications equipment - much simpler, faster and cheaper," he said.

HP expects its local operations to benefit significantly in terms of time and cost. "We have specific operations in Singapore that will definitely benefit in their pursuit of FCC certifications due the availability of an alternative, more convenient, local certification lab," said Mr James Wong, Technical Regulations Engineering Program Manager for South & South-East Asian Countries at HP. Local HP R&D staff can resolve testing issues directly, making it more effective and faster.

Mr Bharat Bhatia, Director of Regional Government Relations at Motorola, noted that MRA preparation could become a catalyst for companies to update and streamline their existing certification processes. "The MRA also promotes exchange of best-practice information on certification among participating economies," he added.

"Previously it took us about 1-2 months and $10,000 to obtain type approvals for two models of telecom equipment," said Mr Pat Mun Fai, Sales and Marketing Director of Singapore Communications Equipment Co. Pte. Ltd. "If this is made redundant via the CAB certification, there will be time and cost savings reaped. I believe many telecommunications equipment distributors and dealers who import and sell equipment in the Singapore market, like us, will be happy to hear this."

Mr Pat added that, with operations in Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and China, the company welcomes more MRAs with similar CAB certifications, as that would enable products to move more freely without the hassle of getting it type-approved in every one of these countries.  

Looking Ahead

The good news for Mr Pat and other local players in the telecom industry is that, by the third quarter of 2006, Singapore and Malaysia are also expected to put in operation Phase One of their MRA.

The total telecom equipment trade between Singapore and Malaysia, Singapore's top trading partner in telecommunication equipment in 2005, was valued at S$6.5 billion. This Singapore-Malaysia MRA will further boost bilateral trade by allowing telecom equipment direct entry to either market, without the need for additional testing.   It may also just spur implementations of ASEAN MRA initiatives by more countries in the future.