New Delhi: The government has allowed all applicants, including China’s Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd, to participate in 5G trials, telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Monday.
“The age of 5G is coming... we have taken a decision to give 5G spectrum for trials to all the players," said Prasad.
This comes as a welcome relief to Huawei, which has been facing global scrutiny over network security concerns. The US has claimed that Huwaei’s 5G equipment could be used by China to spy on other countries, an allegation the company has repeatedly denied.
The approval for conducting 5G trials does not, however, automatically imply that Huawei’s equipment will be cleared for a commercial rollout in the country.
The department of telecommunications (DoT) will meet all telecom equipment vendors on Tuesday to discuss the timeline and other procedures to start trials. DoT will allocate the trial spectrum to its licensees, which are telecom service providers such as Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Idea Ltd that can then choose to partner with vendors such as Nokia, Huawei, Ericsson and Samsung.
Huwaei welcomed the government’s decision. “We have full confidence in the Indian government and industry to partner with the best technology for India’s own long-term benefit and also for cross-industry development. Huawei is always committed to India," said Jay Chen, chief executive of Huawei India.
Earlier this month, DoT approved prices for the next spectrum auction that will happen by April. Of the 8,300 MHz of airwaves the government plans to offer, 6,050 MHz have been allocated for 5G services.
India is a crucial market for Huawei, where it has deployed 4G networks for Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea. Huawei had in September said banning the company in India would delay the rollout of 5G services by two-three years.
India’s decision to let Huawei take part in 5G trials comes at a time when the company is battling intense pressure from the US. Australia and Japan have also barred Huawei, while Canada and New Zealand are likely to follow suit. Many countries in Europe are yet to take a decision, while Russia, Indonesia, Malaysia, South Korea, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have welcomed Huawei.
“Whether it is Huawei or Ericsson or any other company, India needs to build a system, which can detect any malware and not depend on the brand of a company or a country," said Vimal Wakhlu, a former chairman of Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd. “Any country is capable of snooping on us. The reason some people have been advocating a ban on Huawei is that if it is barred, the market for equipment becomes slightly less competitive and hence it can be sold at higher prices."
In June, Huawei said it was willing to sign a “no back-door" pact with the Indian government to assuage potential security concerns.
A “back door" is a point of access in a network/equipment that guarantees entry into the network/equipment in exceptional circumstances.