Both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have partnered with Huawei, ZTE, Ericsson and Nokia in their applications for the upcoming 5G trials, reported the Economic Times. Reliance Jio meanwhile has has submitted its application in partnership with Samsung, the report said. According to a Business Standard report, state-owned BSNL is also likely to partner with ZTE to participate in the 5G trials. We have reached out to Airtel, Vodafone and Jio for more details and will update this post when they reply.
In December 2019, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said that the country will not stop any telecom equipment provider from participating in the 5G field trials, essentially giving the green-light to China’s Huawei. This, despite Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliate, Swadeshi Jagran Manch’s “disappointment” over allowing the Chinese telecom company from participating in the 5G trials.
In June last year, Prasad had informed Parliament that the government had set up a committee headed by the principal scientific advisor to look at issues, including security, relating to 5G trials in India, when asked about the government’s plans to protect the country’s telecommunications infrastructure from possible surveillance attempts. At the time, he had said that Huawei and ZTE were among 6 other telcos who had submitted their applications to participate in the trials.
Why this matters: The United States of America has been engaging with countries around the world, including India, urging them to not allow Huawei in their 5G network. In December 2019, the country had warned India of the “risks” posed by Chinese-made networks, to the “treasured freedoms”. A few months before that, it had also written to the Ministry of External Affairs, “warning” India that Indian companies that supply American-origin products could face severe punishment.
In May 2019, the US Commerce Department had added Huawei and 70 affiliates to its ‘Entity List’, which prevented the company from buying components from US companies without the government’s approval. The enormity of the decision soon became clear when Google cancelled Huawei’s Android licence, and chipmakers Intel, Qualcomm, Broadcom and Xilinx suspended shipments to the Chinese company. The US’ core concern is Huawei’s close relationship with the Chinese government and fears that its equipment could be used to spy on other countries.