Four days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised telecom companies like Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJio) for turning away Chinese vendors, the Chairman of US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Ajit Pai and RJio president Mathew Oommen on Monday said that as companies moved towards deployment of 5G technologies in their respective countries, they must be wary of vendors which can bring a “digital pandemic”.
“Equipment at heart of 5G networks currently comes from just a few global suppliers, and the largest of course right now is the Chinese company Huawei. This has raised concerns given that Chinese law requires all companies subject to its jurisdiction to comply with request from the country’s intelligence services,” Pai said in a webinar organisation by the US India Business Council (USIBC).
The US has already banned Huawei, and will issue show-cause notice to other Chinese- state owned companies which it believes have received requests China’s intelligence services to share data, Pai said.
Earlier on June 25, Pompeo has tweeted saying that the tide was turning away from companies like Huawei and towards clean telcos, which were now being used by leading telecom players from across the world.
“The tide is turning toward trusted 5G vendors and away from Huawei. The world’s leading telecom companies-Telefonica, Orange, Jio, Telstra, and many more-are becoming “Clean Telcos.” They are rejecting doing business with tools of the CCP surveillance state, like Huawei,” Pompeo had said on Twitter.
Pai, the second US official to praise RJio for not using Huawei’s equipment in its 5G network, said that countries and companies could not “afford to make risky choices and hope for the best”. On Monday, Oommen too supported Pai’s view, and said there was a need for secure digital transformation to 5G networks.
“How do we ensure that we do not contaminate the digital infrastructure, and make sure that digital pandemic that can not infect the digital infrastructure and fabric of any nation,” he said during the webinar.
Following a clash between Indian and Chinese soldiers earlier this month, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had said that state-run telcos Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited have been asked to rework their 4G expansion tenders so as to exclude Chinese telecom equipment vendors.
The DoT had then also hinted that private telcos may also be asked to refrain from using equipment provided by Chinese telecom vendors for creating 5G network and expansion of existing 4G networks.
Among the three major domestic telecom operators, only Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea have been using Chinese equipment, while Mukesh Ambani-led Jio uses equipment made by South Korea’s Samsung.
Apart from India, Huawei has been under scrutiny in other countries including the US with allegations of snooping. The US had also been putting pressure on countries with friendly trade relations such as India to stop buying telecom equipment from Chinese vendors.
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