Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio will get a double boost if Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government finally decides to keep technology leader Huawei of China out of the 5G trials set to begin soon. A top government adviser has opposed allowing Huawei to take part in the trials that Telecommunication Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad recently said would begin in a few weeks. The opposition of K Vijay Raghavan, the principal scientific adviser to the Narendra Modi government, will be a setback for mobile telephony market leader Vodafone Idea and third-placed Bharti Airtel. These two extensively use equipment manufactured by Huawei while Reliance Jio reportedly uses mainly European-origin equipment.
Raghavan, who heads a high-level committee on 5G, said India should "go for (5G) trials immediately with all, except for Chinese vendors," a report in The Times of India said. "For China, we should prepare pros and cons for going with them," the report quotes Raghavan as saying at the June 13 meeting of the sub-committee on 5G and technology trials. The committee has officials from the Intelligence Bureau (IB), ministries of external affairs, home, telecom and IT and the department of science and technology.
Reports say PM Modi and US President Donald Trump discussed measures to explore collaboration in 5G telecommunications technology on the sidelines of the G20 Summit. The two leaders discussed the technical and business opportunities that 5G provides. President Trump also reportedly discussed the Huawei episode with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
New Delhi is a divided house with representatives of different wings taking divergent views on letting Huawei participate in the security trials. Yet, there was a consensus about the need for safeguards to deal with security fears that the Chinese major evokes worldwide because of its rumoured ties with the Chinese political and People Liberation Army (PLA) establishments, according to media reports. Though Huawei, which is facing a global blacklisting by Washington, has offered a "no backdoor" guarantee to Indian authorities, some government officials are still wary. Their concerns are legitimate in that India still lags in technology and equipment to test the vulnerabilities of advanced telecom networks.
Indian intelligence agencies have taken the stand that while security should be paramount in any decision, including Huawei will be a political decision of the government. Vodafone Idea, the market leader in mobile service, enjoys a revenue market share (RMS) of 32.2 per cent. But Reliance Jio is close on the heels at 31.7 percent after having forged ahead of Airtel at 27.3 percent.
A ban on Huawei will leave Asian players South Korean Samsung, and Japanese NEC, US-based Cisco, AT&T, Qualcomm, and Verizon, and European players Swedish Ericcson, Finnish Nokia, and French Orange in the fray. The mobile service providers that have depended on Huawei will lose their price advantage because the switch to more expensive European or US equipment will be financially painful. For Reliance Jio, the integration of the 5G equipment will be easier.