Major carriers Reliance Industries' Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea will conduct the trials over six months along with state-run MTNL in urban, rural and semi-urban areas.
India’s exclusion of Chinese telecom companies during its 5G trials was not meant to be a subtle gesture. It was a direct message to Beijing that slowly and steadily the Indian administration would sweep China’s influence out of its vital communication networks.
Major carriers Reliance Industries' Jio Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea will conduct the trials along with state-run MTNL in urban, rural and semi-urban areas, the Ministry of Communications said in a statement. The statement did not mention Huawei and smaller Chinese rival ZTE among the participating network equipment suppliers.Huawei declined to comment, while ZTE and the Indian ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the list of companies involved.
While India has not named the Chinese players as taking part in the six-month trials, which aim to test 5G gear and technology in different environments, it has not banned them from supplying 5G equipment to carriers.
True to form, Beijing has lodged an objection, but the GoI has been served with too many instances of China’s belligerence across multiple platforms to compensate on its internal security systems.
China has expressed concern and regret over the Indian government’s decision to bar the likes of Huawei and ZTE from participating in 5G trials, saying the move is unfair, discriminatory and harms the gear vendors’ “legitimate rights and interests”.
“We noted relevant notification, and express concern and regret that Chinese telecommunications companies have not been permitted to conduct 5G trials with Indian Telecom Service Providers in India,” the Chinese embassy said.
China’s goal is to ensure a unipolar Asia and it has gone about its task via aggressive - diplomatic and military - means to try and create a lasting damage. A functional and working relationship will probably be the longer term solution and this would mean ensuring that there is no Chinese presence in India’s digital and communication infrastructure.
After the customs department and the Bureau of Indian Standards, the Department of Telecommunications is said to be the latest arm of the government creating pressure on electronic and telecom imports from China.
TheDoT has apparently held back approvals for import of Wi-Fi-enabled devices from China for over six months now delaying the launch plans of mobile phone companies including Apple, Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo, laptop makers HP, Dell and Lenovo, and telecom equipment vendors Nokia and Ericsson.
China’s geopolitical hostility was put into perspective by Indian foreign minister Dr. S Jaishankar who stated, “The relationship with China is going through a difficult phase because in violation of agreements and understandings of many years the Chinese have deployed a large part of the military on and close to the LAC without explanation and they continue to be there. It’s now a year from when it all began and their actions have disturbed peace along the border area after almost 45 years.”
Dr. Jaishankar spoke to India Inc Group Chairman and CEO, Manoj Ladwa in an exclusive interview during which he touched upon the festering topic of India’s tension with China.
Dr. Jaishankar spoke on a range of issues during the course of the hour long interview. The discussion was titled Does India Have A Plan? From Survival To Revival. It was a part of India Inc’s Global Dialogue Series and can be viewed here.
The Indian government is best served by seeking to establish alliances on issues pertaining to telecommunications and the crucial offering like 5G with like-minded western nations who have also grown wise to China’s unorthodox behaviour in this sector. There have too many instances where this has come to light and given rise to robust debate in Washington and European capitals on the potential pitfalls of allowing China access to such platforms.
Last November, India and the UK agreed to work together in the field of telecommunications and 5G. A Mou was signed then between the Ministry of Communications and UK’s Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS). The UK joined hands with India as part of a global “anti-China” alliance of sorts to check the expansion of Chinese telecom companies such as Huawei and ZTE in the global 5G space. The two countries will work on development of technologies such as 5G, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and Big Data.
India, with its geographical proximity to China, needs to be the most careful and there is certainly no room for business concessions to a rival with whom the country has been engaged militarily.
As Jaishankar went on to add during his interview, “That’s something we have maintained and have been discussing with the Chinese. We have made progress in some areas – like the disengagement progress, but there are still ongoing discussions in other areas.
“Our last conversation was focused on the Covid. Discussions where Covid is something bigger and it’s in our best interests. Foreign minister Wang Yi agreed. I said the best way we can be helped would be that many of our companies are ordering stuff from China and there is difficulty in logistics. I asked him to please take a look at it and we would appreciate it. After our conversations, things moved. Some airlines got their approvals. The logistics chain is now flowing in.”
India is the world's second-biggest market by number of phone users. Authorities are wary of awarding new technology business to Chinese companies because of security concerns, government sources have previously said, and a desire to help local telecoms equipment manufacturers.
The government's telecoms department said in March that, after June 15, carriers can only buy certain types of equipment from state-approved "trusted sources" and said New Delhi could also create a "no procurement" list of banned suppliers.
- Inputs from Reuters