The role of Chinese equipment makers is likely to come under scrutiny in 5G telecom services trials, sources told CNBC-TV18, as policymakers try to figure out ways to reduce dependence on China, particularly in areas of critical technology.
“DoT will form a committee soon to review 5G trial applications. Government wants to review the participation of all Chinese equipment makers in the trials and the eventual auction,” said a Department of Telecommunications official, who did not want to be named.
CNBC-TV18 had reported last week that the DoT had asked private players to consider reviewing future partnerships or tie-ups with Chinese equipment players. The government is already in the process of reviewing 4G upgrade contracts of public operators BSNL and MTNL, a government official had told CNBC-TV18 on the condition of anonymity
After an intensive review, the DoT, in January, had given its nod to all telecom operators to conduct 5G trials. However, the spectrum for the testing is yet to be given due to which, the trials haven’t started.
Huawei and ZTE are the two Chinese players that have featured in the applications. Bharti Airtel has applied for the 5G trials in partnership with Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung while Vodafone Idea with Huawei, ZTE, Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung. Jio has applied for the 5G trials with Samsung and BSNL with ZTE.
Jio has also submitted a fresh application to test its own 5G gear. Last year, the DoT had conducted a detailed review of security concerns cited by the US around Huawei and cleared its participation in the auctions.
The committee that is likely to be set up soon will be responsible for reviewing the applications that include Chinese equipment makers and dole out spectrum for testing.
Speaking in a panel discussion on CNBC-TV18 last week, V Kamakoti, member of the National Security Advisory (NSA) board said that security was a key concern for 5G implementation.
“If you look at 5G particularly, there are a lot of software layers and if this software is going to come from outside then there is certainly going to be an imminent security threat,” Kamakoti had said.
However, sources in the telecom sector told CNBC-TV18 that no communication had been made so far by the DoT formally or informally with regards to the 5G trials.
Speaking to CNBC-TV18 earlier, the Cellular Operators Authority Of India’s Director General Rajan Matthew had said that India would be the loser in the 5G game if technology from Chinese players was not put into use.
“In the 4G world, investments have already been made. 5G is where Huawei and ZTE have dominance. India will lose out on the 5G quality that comes from Chinese network infrastructure players if we restrict them,” he said.
On the 4G contracts, while the telecom sector sources said that there was no order to private players to review tie-ups with Chinese firms, they confirmed that upgrades of the public service providers were under review.