Huawei India CEO Jay Chen has demanded that the government provide a “level playing field” instead of using “country of origin” as the basis for giving permission to companies for the much-awaited 5G trials in the country.
Chen’s demand came in response to concerns raised by newly appointed Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on the security issues related to Chinese telecom gear in his first interaction with the media.
Once again, the contentious issue of banning Chinese telecom equipment manufacturers is in the spotlight, where it has been ever since the US and many other countries acted against Huawei for allegedly using its equipment to spy for the Chinese government. Huawei has rejected the allegation.
“The decision on 5G trials should not be based on origin of country. The decision should be based on a level playing field. Policy, standards, procedures will provide security benefits for industry and India. It is time for DoT to make a decision now. I think Huawei’s participation is only in the benefit of this country,” said Chen.
He also pointed out that the company had been actively engaged with the DoT over the past seven to eight months and had answered all its questions.
The subject of allowing Huawei to participate in the 5G trials has been through many twists and turns.
Earlier, the DoT announced that Huawei had applied to participate in the 5G trials even though the US had banned it.
However, domestic telecom manufacturers were up in arms and pushed for restrictions on Chinese players.
Then, last year, the Telecom Equipment Promotion Council wrote to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to express its security concerns.
Asked if Huawei will be allowed to undertake 5G trials, Prasad said: “We will take a firm view on it.
There are security issues and it is not a matter of technology. Whether a particular company is allowed or not is a complex question.”
Any action against Huawei will be of concern to telecom operators who fear that the cost of rolling out 5G will increase substantially without Chinese equipment. Speaking at a session on 5G at the annual general meeting of the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), Chen said: “Chinese investors give full commitment that they will obey the law of the land and provide the best of services.”
COAI secretary general Rajan Mathews pointed out that equipment prices are expected to go up if the Chinese option is not available since it will leave only three players in the market: Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung.
“Huawei is around 10-15 percent cheaper. But more importantly, unlike the Europeans, it arranges for credit lines at just LIBOR for a period of 10-15 years which is the entire life of the equipment. With banks chary about giving loans to telcos and the ECB route difficult, this is a huge advantage. And their technology is at par with that of other competitors,” said Mathews.
He added that Chinese manufacturers account for 20 percent of all the equipment bought in India, especially in 4G. “We have till now not heard from the government whether and which areas they have security concerns over 4G equipment. Bear in mind that, with the high level of standardization in 5G equipment, it is far more secure than 4G,” said Mathews.―Business Standard