Telcos seek clarity on import of 5G gear from China
Mobile phone companies have called on the Department on Telecommunications (DoT) to clarify whether they should order 5G equipment from Chinese company Huawei or not, as millions of dollars will be at stake.
"…there is no present instruction from the DoT, which licenses our operators, against use of Huawei or ZTE equipment by telecom operators," Rajan Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), told ET.
“However, in the best interest of customers and operators, the department should soon clarify whether those presently using Huawei's or ZTE’s 4G equipment can migrate seamlessly to 5G with the same vendors and whether further imports of the Chinese vendors will be allowed,” said Mathews.
COAI represents all private telcos.
In India, Reliance Jio uses 4G equipment from Samsung while Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel use Huawei’s 4G gear in several circles, besides those from Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia and China’s ZTE.
The industry body’s comments come on the back of US President Donald Trump signing an executive order on Wednesday which barred all American companies from installing the foreign-made telecom equipment deemed a national security threat. The fallout of this would be that Huawei will get axed from US networks.
“This is not a burning issue for us as DoT hasn’t given any directions to Indian carriers,” said Mathews.
Telecom industry bodies have been urging the DoT to take a call on Huawei since the equipment maker came under the glare globally over allegations of cyber snooping due to its perceived proximity to the Chinese government. Both the company and China have denied any links and have accused the US of bias and unfair treatment. The US has also asked its allies to ban 5G gear from Huawei.
Canada, Japan, New Zealand and Australia have acquiesced, but Germany and the UK have so far withstood US pressure and refused to impose a blanket ban on gear from the Chinese company.
In various forums, it has been debated on whether Trump’s move was a fallout of US-China trade war and how will it impact Indian operators if they import Huawei equipment and later on a probation comes in from the government.
The Indian government though from time to time has given enough signals that a blanket ban on the Chinese company was unlikely, with an official last week telling ET that it is unfair to deprive local telcos of end-to-end technology at a lower cost which the Chinese company offers. Huawei had said previously that it is engaged with New Delhi and is open to any scrutiny.
But concerns had arisen because of DoT’s apparent ambiguity over allowing Huawei to participate in 5G trials.
The Chinese company was first excluded by DoT, then added to the list of those that could apply to participate in the trials. But in late February, telecom secretary Aruna Sundararajan said the government was yet to take a decision on whether to allow Chinese gear makers to take part as it was examining security-related issues.