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US insists on ‘clean’ 5G networks without Chinese hardware

“Countries need to be able to trust that 5G equipment and software won’t threaten national security, economic security, privacy, intellectual property, or human rights,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said. The US has been pushing countries around the world to abandon Chinese 5G vendors like Huawei and ZTE, and calls networks like Jio that don’t use such equipment “clean telcos”.

“Clean Path” for 5G near US missions

On top of this, the US announced a “5G Clean Path” in April that would effectively ban Huawei-based 5G equipment from being used in and around US diplomatic missions around the world. This would mean that if telcos in India, for instance, don’t switch from Huawei hardware in the coming months, only Jio would be authorised to provide 5G in the areas containing the US embassy in New Delhi and US consulates around the country.

“Thirty-plus countries and territories have become 5G “Clean Countries,” banning untrusted vendors from their networks.  When we talked about this some year ago, that number was in the single digits,” Pompeo said in July. In India, a BSNL tender was withdrawn in July, and will reportedly be reworked with terms that would prevent Huawei and ZTE from participating.

5G in India

While Jio says it is ready for 5G with indigenous tech, other telcos have been cautious, with Airtel saying that 5G will only start being relevant a couple years later. While the Indian government has not clearly telegraphed an intention to compel Huawei technology to be removed from telcos’ networks in the aftermath of the Indo-Chinese skirmishes earlier this year, the issue may come up when telecom operators start building out infrastructure needed for 5G networks in a more significant way.

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