While Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei Technologies has been barred by many Western countries from selling 5G technology, because of espionage concerns, the Indian government, after initial hesitancy, may allow it to take part in field trials for 5G technology in the country.
It may be noted that in September India had not invited Huawei and another Chinese firm ZTE to take part in 5G field trials, scheduled to take place early next year. But about a fortnight later it allowed Huawei, following protests by the company.
However, no invite has been sent so far to ZTE. The other major telecom players invited for 5G trials include Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung.
Indian officials now contend that Huawei cannot be singled out on the basis of security concerns, because its rivals also source key components from China. However, Ericsson and Nokia, which get components from China, claim they have tight security controls in place, Economic Times reports.
The Indian government may hold an inter-ministerial meeting to discuss the issue. Officials from the Home Ministry, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, the Department of Commerce, the IT Ministry and the Department of Telecommunications may also hold meetings before any decision is taken, Mint has reported.
The Department of Telecommunications has also put in place security testing specifications for telecom gear sold by any vendor in the country from January. India plans to roll out a 5G network across the country by 2020.
The Cellular Operators Association of India wrote a letter urging the Department of Telecommunications to conduct its own due diligence and not impose curbs on Huawei based on hearsay.
For Indian telecommunication companies, excluding Huawei would mean a rise in costs as they would be entirely dependent of European companies for their 5G equipment, which are around 25% more expensive.
For Huawei it would mean a loss of opportunity to establish a foothold in the world’s second largest and fastest growing telecom market.
Huawei has come under increased scrutiny after the United States warned of potential national security risks from using its products. Spy chiefs from the “Five Eyes” — an intelligence alliance made up of the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – want to contain Huawei’s global reach.
Certain telecom firms in France and Germany have also decided not to use Huawei equipment for similar reasons.