While the US government has blacklisted Chinese telecom giant Huawei on suspicion of espionage and is exerting pressure on other countries to follow suit, India is yet to make a call on banning Huawei from its forthcoming 5G trials.
The US has told Delhi in bilateral talks that should India go ahead with Huawei or ZTE, then US technology must be protected where dual systems exist in proposed 5G networks.
India’s Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told Parliament on Wednesday that the government had received six proposals for 5G trials, including two from the Chinese conglomerates Huawei and ZTE.
However, he said a decision on whether the Chinese companies can participate would depend on the recommendations of a committee, headed by the principal scientific adviser, which will assess the security relating to 5G technology and trials in India. The committee was set up in May and is expected to table its report shortly.
“All parties [companies] are likely to be permitted on the trial of 5G… it is just a matter of time now,” a senior government official told Business Line newspaper.
Meanwhile, the chief executive officer of Huawei India, Jay Chen, has said his company is willing to sign a “no back door” pact with the Indian government and his Indian clients to address any security concerns.
The company hopes the measure would reassure the Indian government about any cybersecurity breach that could arise at the vendor’s end.
A “back door” is a point of access in network equipment that guarantees entry into the network or equipment under exceptional circumstances. Without it, the equipment supplier would not be able to access the customer’s network without consent.
Chen said: “I would like to propose this to all original equipment manufacturers, that let’s sign this agreement with customers [telecoms] and the government for network security compliance… to give trust and confidence to the government on security concerns,” Mint newspaper reported.
Indian telecom firms such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-India have been using Huawei gear for its 4G technology. In regard to 5G, Huawei gear is very advanced in terms of technology and is reportedly 10-15% cheaper than Nokia and Ericsson.
Moreover, industry analysts contend that the two European companies will be sourcing equipment from China, and thus exposed to security risks. However, both Nokia and Ericsson claim they have tight controls and security protocols in place.
The US administration warned the Modi government recently that Indian companies found supplying equipment or other products of American origin to Huawei or its units could face punitive action.
The Trump administration has also added Huawei to a trade blacklist, which means US companies are banned from supplying equipment to Huawei without government permission.