While Indian telecom players Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel are betting heavily on the fifth-generation mobile telephony (5G) in a big way, the US ban on Chinese telecom equipment makers from trials. President Donald Trump has not only banned world leader in 5G technology Huawei from the US but also threatened to sanction companies that sell or buy the technology.
Though India has not yet decided on excluding Huawei, the telecom operators fear that a decision in the future could affect their plans for 5G rollout. Jio has tied up with South Korean telecom major Samsung, Airtel is in finalising agreements with European tech giants Ericsson and Nokia, a media report says.
Only Jio and Airtel have sought the permission of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) for the trial run, a report on the Business Standard website says. Vodafone-Idea group is yet to decide on 5G because of the massive investments necessary and the high rates likely to be quoted at the 5G auctions.
Telecommunications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said soon after assuming office in May that the government would take a decision on Huawei soon. However, a decision has been delayed amid the US-China trade war. The dealy could adversely impact the Digital India push of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government in its second stint, considering the need for reliable fast internet connectivity. Experts say that India would struggle to meet the target of taking quality internet to the rural hinterland without the help of the cheaper technology available with the Chinese players.
Huawei is among the six technology providers who have approached the government for inclusion in the 5G trials, Prasad told Parliament in June. Another Chinese vendor ZTE has also shown interest along with Samsung of South Korea, Ericsson of Sweden, and Nokia of Finland, a report in the Economic Times said. India has set up an expert panel on 5G security and the Chinese vendors would have to wait until the panel headed by the Principal Scientific Adviser to the government comes out with its recommendations.
Though telcos have been pressing the government for an early decision on the matter because of the huge investment and long term commitments required the panel is yet to finalize its report to the government. Telcos fear that the government may not be able to withstand pressure from the US on Chinese tech companies whom it accuses of helping the government in Beijing to spy on US interests.
The government is firming up plans to conduct the sale of airwaves debuting 5G spectrum this year itself. The government plans to allocate 5G trial spectrum for a year that will be extendable for a one-time fee of Rs 5,000 per location, reports say.