Chinese telecom giant Huawei is closing out December with clear progress on its participation in global 5G network rollouts, despite US warnings about the potential national security risks the company poses.
India’s technology and communications minister announced on Monday (Dec. 30) that the country has decided to allow “all players” to participate in its 5G trials, including Huawei, as well as Sweden’s Ericsson, Finland’s Nokia, Samsung from South Korea and Cisco from the US. The trials will be conducted early next year, while India’s launch of its 5G network is expected to take place in 2021.
“We thank the Indian government for their continued faith in Huawei,” said Jay Chen, CEO of Huawei India on Monday, according to the Economic Times. “We have our full confidence in the [prime minister Narendra] Modi government to drive 5G in India… Huawei is always committed to India.”
The development in India comes after promising moves for Huawei in Europe as well. Telefonica Deutschland, a unit of Spanish telecom Telefonica, picked Nokia and Huawei to build its 5G network in early December. Earlier, Swiss telecom company Sunrise and Huawei established a 5G research center, and the country has also used Huawei equipment for building out its 5G networks this year. Overall, half of the company’s 65 5G contracts secured globally as of Dec. 5 came from European countries, according to Nikkei Asian Review.
The UK is still to decide whether it will allow Huawei to provide its 5G networks in January, but some telecom firms are already using Huawei equipment in “non-core” portions of their 5G rollouts.
The developments come even as the US has actively lobbied against using Huawei for 5G, saying its equipment poses national security risks, citing its close ties with Beijing. Huawei has denied the US accusations, saying it would not hand over data to Beijing. The US has also put the company on a trade blacklist.
Still, Huawei’s cost-effective equipment make it an attractive provider, as does its ability to provide end-to-end 5G services, from chipsets to devices, that few other players can offer currently. Market-access threats from Beijing toward European countries like Denmark and Germany could also have an impact on 5G decisions—though it’s unclear if the impact of such pressure will be in Beijing’s favor.
In the case of India, since around 90% of its telecom equipment is imported, concerns over foreign surveillance would always loom large, whether it is Huawei, Nokia or Ericsson, wrote Munish Sharma, a consultant with the New Delhi think tank, the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, in April. What India needs to do is to carry out a independent security review of Huawei’s equipment, he argued, as well as consider using its 5G purchases as a bargaining chip to adjust its trade imbalance with China.