A customer at a Vodafone store in Mumbai. Photo: AFP

With uncertainty surrounding the fate of Chinese telecom gear maker Huawei in India’s 5G telecom network rollout, market leader Vodafone-Idea and Bharti Airtel are now exploring other options.

Both Vodafone-Idea and Airtel have done business with Huawei in the past and operate in a multi-vendor environment. The two telecoms have now initiated talks with South Korean major Samsung to supply telecom gear for their forthcoming 5G network and the existing 4G network, Economic Times reports.

That is significant because, in India, only Reliance Jio has done such deals with Samsung to date.

The Indian Government is yet to make a call on Huawei participating in the forthcoming 5G trials after the US government placed it on a trade blacklist that prohibits American companies from selling products and services to the Chinese telecom giant.

If Huawei gets banned in India, Samsung, ZTE, Ericsson, and Nokia will be available to supply telecom gear for Indian telecoms.

Aside from Huawei, Ericsson and Nokia are the other two major telecom suppliers in India. But with Vodafone-Idea and Airtel wanting to keep their vendor options diverse they have also approached Samsung.

In addition to forthcoming 5G networks, Vodafone-Idea and Airtel also approached Samsung in regard to expanding and upgrading their existing 4G networks.

Samsung has, not surprisingly, seen the ban on Huawei as an opportunity to supply more telecom gear to India and other nations around the world, particularly those that are allies of the US or have cybersecurity concerns.

Meanwhile, the Department of Telecommunications has cleared the path for 5G trials in India. The new Modi administration is expected to decide on the contentious issue – use of Huawei equipment in telecom infrastructure, particularly for 5G networks, according to Press Trust of India reports.

The Cellular Operators Association of India, a telecommunications industry body, has said it would like clarity from the government on the use of Huawei equipment as early as possible, to enable companies to make investment decisions as billions of dollars are at stake.

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