The department of telecommunications (DoT), under oversight from the government of India, has reportedly recommended that Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE be kept out of setting up 5G infrastructure in India. According to CNBC-TV18, sources with knowledge of the matter at DoT has stated that a panel set up by the body has cited cyber security as the key reason for keeping Chinese players out of India’s 5G bid. However, officials within telecom companies reportedly said that no official communication has been made by DoT yet, on either the timeline of 5G spectrum auction in India, or whether Chinese equipment providers will be allowed to play a part in India.
According to sources, the DoT panel’s move stands in line with a newly instated government policy that seeks to restrict the participation of Chinese companies in government tenders. At the centre of this restriction is the Indian government’s unwillingness to allow remote access to critical network infrastructure to companies based in China, and as such, are suspected of having ties to the Chinese government. The sources also stated that DoT’s move is in line with India’s data localisation policy, in which case the government is prioritising Indian equipment players over their Chinese counterparts.
Government sources have claimed that both Huawei and ZTE, the two firms that are majorly under fire across the world in terms of 5G deployment, had submitted applications to participate in setting up 5G communications infrastructure in India. If the DoT panel’s recommendation is seen through, officials with telecom operators have suggested that the equipment procurement cost may go up by almost 25 percent, and may also cause a delay in the date of 5G trials.
The setback in India’s 5G trials, the sources have claimed, may lead to a further delay of up to nine months in the 5G spectrum auction. According to sources, India’s 5G auctions should ideally happen by end-2020, in order to meet a tentative deadline of 2021 for commercial launch. This will see India keep pace with other nations as well.