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Huawei Row Casts Shadow On 5G Tech Trials In India

The Department of Telecommunications is contemplating on whether to allow China’s Huawei for 5G field trials in India, as it assesses the implications on various sectors including national security.

“No final decision has been taken yet on allowing Huawei in the 5G field trials. Once the new government takes over, we will decide on it,” a senior DoT official told DNA Money.

“We will work out our own assessment with regards to security implications and the needs of the telecom sector, rather than blindly following other countries,” the official said. A clear roadmap will be formulated and then a decision will be taken.

This has come on the heels of Google’s ban on Huawei from using its Android services on mobile handsets, amidst trade war between the US and China. There are fears of security compromise in the US as well related to Huawei’s network equipment.

Huawei is the second-largest handset maker globally, with half of its sales outside China. In India, in the mobile market, it has around 3-4% market share (combine Huawei and its sub-brand Honor) but with Google’s main services like Gmail, Google Play Store and Maps away from Huawei’s mobile handsets, the market in India will take a big hit, according to experts.

Faisal Kawoosa, founder, consultancy firm TechArc said it will have a big impact on the smartphone business for Huawei and Honor, its sub-brand. “Without Android, its saleability comes to zero immediately.”

In a statement, Huawei said it has made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world. As one of Android’s key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefitted both users and the industry. “Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally.

We will continue to build a safe and sustainable software ecosystem, in order to provide the best experience for all users globally.”

For 5G trials, Huawei had got a participation letter from DoT but there has no further communication after it.

A DoT committee recently cleared the proposal to allow Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio to conduct 5G spectrum trials next month for a period of three months. For these trials, equipment vendors Samsung, Nokia and Ericsson have been selected.

The government is yet to allocate 5G spectrum for the start of field trials. It is expected that the trials will start by June-July once the allotment of spectrum is done, the official said. The spectrum will be allotted for three months, wherein specific India use cases will be developed by network equipment makers in partnership with telecom players.

Globally, South Korea, North America, Japan and China are expected to start 5G operations in the next one to two years. It is expected that the commercial launch of 5G services will happen by 2020 in India.

Commenting on the impact on Huawei’s plans for 5G in India, Kawoosa said, “The government has to take its own stand devoid of how the US-Huawei relations are. The Indian market is such that we need to have different tiers of players to supply gear even in 5G. There will for sure be a perception built and may temporarily result in a cautious approach towards Huawei.”

On the other hand, telecom players are following a mixed approach. Some are deploying 4.5G or massive MIMO technologies in their networks, which will allow them to offer additional new services later.

The government is also planning a spectrum auction in this fiscal, which incumbents like Airtel and Vodafone has requested to be postponed by a year or so, given their financial constraints. “It is prudent to wait for 5G. Even consumers have not started demanding it,” Kawoosa said.

5G will be critical to the government’s various ambitious projects – smart cities and Digital India. A committee set up by the department of telecommunications had estimated the economic impact of 5G services to be over $1 trillion and it would be critical for various segments in the society, including agriculture, education, public safety and disaster management, among others.

Call interrupted

  • 3-4% – Market share of Huawei and its sub brand Honor in India
  • 4 million – units sold by the company in India
  • Huawei along with Airtel had showcased a use case for 5G
  • Huawei yet to get an approval for 5G trials in India, which are expected to start by June-July
  • Huawei is a supplier of 4G equipment to Airtel and Vodafone Idea―DNA India
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