Telecom tycoon Sunil Mittal on Thursday came out in strong defence of Huawei, arguing that its products were “leading edge” and “superior” to rivals, and advocated that the firm should be in the play even as the US government has flagged “genuine security issues” around the Chinese telecom gear maker.
The US asserted that its opposition to the Chinese company was not about protectionism but “genuine security risks” that go beyond the front end equipment, percolating to even areas like upgrades and maintenance.
Speaking at the India Economic Summit here, Mittal, the Chairman of Bharti Enterprises, however, backed Huawei’s technology prowess to the hilt, saying the company over the last 10 or 12 years has become “extremely good” with its products. He said, “I can safely say their products in 3G and 4G that we have experienced, are significantly superior to Ericsson and Nokia. I use all 3 of them.”
Stating that he had been surprised by the Huawei’s technological edge, Mittal noted that the Chinese company had been able to take its products to a level where it was leading edge. “The power consumption is a fraction of Europeans, the footprint is small if you have to put it on a tower, and they have powerful leading features…They are clearly leading edge. Now whether they compromised some American IPs I don’t know,” the Indian telecom czar said.
The US has barred its companies from working with Huawei, a leading telecom gear supplier, due to concerns over security and intellectual property. India is yet to take a call on whether it intends to place curbs on Huawei or allow the firm to participate in 5G trials.
“India will take US’ advisory carefully,” Mittal said but added in the same breath that New Delhi will have to decide on its relationship with China.
Asked specifically about his views on Huawei and which way India should lean, Mittal said, “My view is that they should be in play. I really feel they should be in play. India must use this as leverage.”
“Unlike opening it to many other western companies, our country and then having very little leverage I would rather have this leverage today because it is an important part,” Mittal said adding that the benefit of India’s push back has been that Huawei has now opened up its technology, offering it to American firms, and may even do so for interested Indian companies.
US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said that America’s concern is based on its desire and hope “that our geopolitical partner India doesn’t inadvertently subject itself to untoward security risk”. “It isn’t just risk on front end..there are constant maintenance, upgrades. Every time there is an interaction with vendor, there is a potential for security issue to develop,” Ross said.
Ross outrightly rejected the notion that US’ concerns around Huawei were in anyway linked to advancing cause of American telecom players. “Notion that our views on Huawei are a function of US protectionism is incorrect,” Ross said.
“The reason we are doing it…we think there are genuine security issues. 5G is different from 3G and 4G…In 3G and 4G, you are able to separate the peripheral from central part. In 5G that is not possible. In 5G if there is a penetration or back door, it will infiltrate the whole system. So proportionality of risk is very considerable,” Ross warned.
He added that in a few years there will be a western alternate that leapfrogs in technology. Since 5G is revolutionary and will take time to roll out, the US feels no immediate need to jump into it.
Asked if the offer of transfer of technology could be a solution to Huawei impasse, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said that the matter was for his colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad to consider. “I should leave it to concerned minister,” Goyal said.―The Hindu Business Line