The government has decided to give all telecom operators and equipment manufacturers, including Chinese giant Huawei, clearance to start trials for 5G services in the country. Speaking at an event Monday, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “We have taken the decision to give 5G spectrum for trial to all the players. The in-principle decision has been taken.”
Later, asked specifically on the sidelines of the event whether Huawei would be allowed to take part in the trials, the Minister said: “Yes, all have been allowed.”
All eyes on Huawei
The in-principle approval for participating in trials does not mean final approval for Huawei to function as a 5G equipment-maker in the country. While the spectrum sale will be concluded in April 2020, the service rollout is likely to take another six months.
The decision to permit Huawei to participate in the trials assumes significance in the face of global scrutiny that the telecom equipment maker faces for security-related threats.
Telecom companies and equipment makers are scheduled to meet Department of Telecom (DoT) officials Tuesday to discuss terms of the trial, government sources said. The discussion will also include circles and population areas that the trials could cover.
Earlier this month, Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash had said that a decision would be taken in the “best national interest”.
Other than Huawei, telecom equipment makers such as Nokia, Ericsson, Zte and Samsung had sought permission to participate in the 5G trials, senior telecom officials had said. “We will call each one of them, match our needs, and take a call… We have an open mind on this issue,” officials had said.
To allay security fears, Huawei India’s Chief Executive Officer had in June this year said that the company was ready to sign a “no backdoor” agreement with the government. Under the agreement, Huawei would vouch that it did not gain access to any Indian customer’s equipment under any circumstance.
The Chinese manufacturer has offered to sign or signed similar agreements with other governments, too. However, the US was among the first major nations to ban Huawei following an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in May. Trump had earlier asked US companies to not use Huawei, alleging that it was a tool of Chinese intelligence agencies.
During his visit to India, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had met his counterpart S Jaishankar as well as Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and discussed the “risks that Chinese-built communication networks, including 5G” posed to both countries.