In a recent announcement by the Indian Government, it said that the Chinese Company, Huawei has been allowed to present its equipments for trials for the 5G incorporation in India. “We have taken a decision to give 5G spectrum for trials to all players,” said Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on 30 Dec 2019. Earlier, it was reported that the Indian government might ban Huawei from conducting 5G trials in the country, but now, the Chinese vendor has received an official nod. Huawei’s rivals Nokia and Ericsson were partnering with Indian telecom operators to deploy 5G network. The trails on the 5G will happen in the first half of 2020, followed by the 5G spectrum auction in the early second half of 2020, and the actual rollout in expected by the first half of 2021.
It was in early 2019 that the US had banned Chinese Giant Huawei and placed the company on the Commerce Department blacklisted, along with the Trump Administration labeling Huawei a national security threat. The US ban on Huawei is the most heated topic in US-China trade negotiations and among semiconductor companies. China agreed to return to the negotiation table on the condition that the US lift the Huawei ban. While the US didn’t lift the ban, it agreed to restart trade for components not critical to national security.
The details of the internal evaluation was not however reported by US, but the 5G equipment manufacturer, Huawei had invested in the research of the products and is also one of the largest sellers of the equipment in UK, Australia, Europe, etc. The Trump administration banned US companies from doing any trading with Huawei after it accused the Chinese giant of espionage and IP (intellectual property) theft.
Huawei is the world’s largest network equipment supplier and a leader in 5G technology. This decision on the ban, will also impact the turnover of the US companies who are the System Integrators for IT and ICT projects. On 22 July 2019, the CEOs of Cisco, Intel, Broadcom, Qualcomm, Micron Technology, Western Digital, and Alphabet met President Trump to discuss the Huawei ban. Trump agreed that the US Commerce Department would make a timely decision on US companies’ licensing requests to trade with Huawei. As the trade complications are on the increase the Trump Administration is also putting pressure on the U.K. government to ban Huawei from its 5G rollout. In November 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of US had again voted unanimously to ban telecommunications companies from using FCC funds to buy equipment from Huawei, as well as ZTE, since both pose a “national security threat.” In addition, the FCC is offering carriers with in the US, funds to remove this equipment from existing networks.
Presently, Huawei has most of its equipment installed in the network of Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea in India. India has now decided otherwise and has provided an opportunity to Huawei to bid for the equipment that will be used in the 5G rollover. The decision may not have been political but it is seen as a deliberate decision after the Company agreed on a “no back door” pact with the Indian government to assuage potential security concerns. The company has also promised to enable India to test the assurance made by Huawei and China that it will not open back doors and will ensure security and integrity, and will convince the Government of the same. The decision is also considered by many as a positive step to enable India like UK and Germany to test the US ability to compete and provide a way for the rest in pricing and security.
The way forward, for India is to establish a framework, set standards, promulgate policy, establish laboratory, undertake testing, and monitor the behavior of equipments; that are being used in the Indian Ecosystem. Huawei, is just one of them, as the manufacture of IT and ICT in India is low and the country depends mainly on import. India needs to ensure security to its citizens and the government of the day should take proactive steps to uphold privacy and cyber security for the country.