Huawei as a Participant in 5G Trials in India: A Two-way Road?

Road for Huawei to India

At the cusp of a generational change, it is always advisable to keep the pace of growth proportional to the development of society. Growth as an institution only shifts its pace when touched by vision. Certainly, India that races for the top 5 positions in Economic Growth has to inhale the global essence of development that at present circles around technological advancement. Currently, India rolled out its decision in public to conduct trials for the 5G spectrum. 5G is the next-generation of cellular technology that will provide faster and more reliable communication with ultra-low latency where the peak network data speeds are expected to be in the range of 2-20 Gigabit per second (Gbps). Such speed is an advancement to the present 4G link speeds averaging from about 6-7 Megabit per second (Mbps) in India1. Launching 5G in India is expected to create a cumulative economic impact of $1 trillion in India by 20352.

Since the talk of this trial has been in the headlines since June 2019, a major impediment was the question of allowing Huawei (a Chinese vendor) to participate in this trial. Huawei has shown a keen interest to participate but the past conspiracies attached to its name have put India in a dilemma. Primarily, Huawei has been accused of stealing other firms’ intellectual property and violating international economic sanctions, therefore, facing product and 5G wireless network project bans in numerous countries3. However, only recently after much debate and deliberation has India has cleared the roadmap for Huawei to participate in the 5G trials.

The Telecom Minister Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad stated that “5G trials will be done with all vendors and operators and at this stage all vendors are invited”. 4. It is not critical to say that the aftermath of this decision requires an elaborative analysis as the decision involves an international interface concerning high-security risks and threats to domestic players in not just one field but in total as they are all connected.

SPEED BREAKERS ON THE WAY

The United States (the US) who is one of the geopolitical partners of India has been pressurising India against the very participation of Huawei for 5G trials. Counteracting to the advice of the US, this decision may delicate the unapologetic relations of India and the US. One could say that the US might want to counterweight the spreading assertiveness of Chinese economic diplomacy through convincing India to debar Huawei gaining market-share in India, but at the same time, the security concerns raised by the US against Huawei which includes accusations of Chinese surveillance on sensitive communications5. as well as possible risk of theft in the intellectual property front are not wrong and that is something India has to be worried about if not now, at least in the future.

In China, the commercial sector is an extended leg of the Government and they have substantial dominance in the corporate affairs of their Country. Not surprisingly, Huawei much like any other corporate giant has to support the ideology of the Chinese Government and appraise the policies and Laws laid out by them.  Moreover, Huawei is even accused of having strong ties with the Chinese Military as it is one of its technological partners. 6 Assertively, these threats are aggravated for India due to India-China hostile relations prolonging since the Indian independence, therefore, trusting Chinese again will be like re-creating the moments of 1962 often known as days of highest trust-deficit between India-China. Moreover, we all know that China which is driven by shame has weaponised this shame against the world, and India in particular often in terms of supporting Indian enemies as well as totally limiting itself to its selfish economic interests rather than ensuring mutual growth including India.

The impact of participation is not limited to the security threat it serves. It also paves way for a setback to India First and Make in India economic ideologies. These ideologies are inscribed to nourish the domestic players by giving them ample opportunity to dictate in the domestic market. A homogenous sectoral market system is what India predicted in the Indian telco world so as to ensure Indian players do not lose their economic interests resulting into monopolization of the sector. Unlikely, the entry of Huawei will disrupt the market space enjoyed by the domestic players. Huawei is well-known for its sharp-edge competition in Time to Market (TTM) and cost-effectiveness areas.7Being a tech giant and now a 5G leader, it will give cut-throat competition to the indigenous players. Nevertheless, Indian players have taken precautionary measures by tying-up with other telecom partners leading to shun Huawei creating its dominance in the nation but the problem still remains intact due to the audacity of being a Titan in this sector.

A TWO-WAY ROAD?

Gratefully, India which is often criticized for acting as a puppet in the hands of developed countries required an occasion like this to shake the roots off the global world. India through its decision has cleared the doubts of many nations by putting strategic development at priority rather than development for all even by self-victimization. India didn’t want to surrender this time to the half-baked threats of the US nor did it want to submit itself to the risks of economic sanctions posed by China. This decision which took a lot of time epitomized the Indian architecture of taking qualitative and self-capable reasoned decisions. Although, this decision threatens the national interest, at the same time it also encourages India towards technological advancement and affordable pricing. The participation of Huawei can increase the chance of India preponing the market of 5G in India by 3 years.

What we can demand at present is a proper “no back door” pact from Huawei which Huawei itself is willing to sign on 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 under exceptional circumstances. By agreeing to the “no back door” pact, the equipment supplier will not be able to access the customer’s network without due consent.8Further India requires a strict regulation at the domestic security front that verifies and assesses the security concerns and further certifies the imported telecom equipment.9

To sum it up, India at present has just agreed to allow participation of Huawei in 5G trials and there has been no such deceleration in regard to the allowance of Huawei in the Indian market as a telecom partner. So, this road is currently a two-way road working on the directions of the Indian Government and unsurprisingly running delayed much like other infrastructural projects in India.

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