People walk past a ZTE stand at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February. Photo: Luis Gene / AFP

As the Indian government readies to roll out the 5G network, Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE has called for lower 5G spectrum prices as mobile-phone service providers on the subcontinent already face revenue pressure and heavy debt.

ZTE has said lower 5G spectrum prices would help the companies invest in networks and enable the Indian government to earn more revenue, Economic Times reports.

India is already the top data-consuming country in the world, with very competitive prices that yield low average revenue per user (ARPU).

In India, ZTE works with Vodafone-Idea, Bharti Airtel and state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. Late last year it bagged a 4G expansion contract from Vodafone-Idea for at least US$1.3 billion.

Huawei’s fate unclear

Meanwhile, the Indian government is yet to make a call on whether Chinese telecom giant Huawei Technologies can participate in the 5G spectrum auctions and this has caused concern among Indian telecom companies.

They argue that they cannot risk millions of dollars and want the government to make it clear whether it is okay to buy Huawei equipment or not.

Vodafone-Idea and Bharti Airtel currently use Huawei equipment for its 4G network. And Bharti Airtel is keen on Huawei’s 5G equipment as its prices are competitive.

But Huawei has come under global scrutiny in recent years over the security of its equipment amid espionage concerns. This saw bans imposed by the US, Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Australia, so authorities in India have been extra cautious.

Initially, the Department of Telecom (DoT) excluded Huawei from the list of firms which could take part in 5G trials, but subsequently, it was added. But even now, it is wary and it is not yet clear whether Huawei will be able to actually take part.

Indian telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said in February the government was yet to take a decision on whether to allow Chinese gear makers to take part in 5G trials because it was examining security-related issues.

Meanwhile, Huawei is pushing hard to allay India’s concerns over the company’s ties with Chinese’s security apparatus.

The company was founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei, who spent about 20 years in the People’s Liberation Army and served in its military technology division.

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