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Telecommunication

Huawei 'very confident' it will participate in India's 5G rollout

Company's India chief says talks with government clarified all concerns about its products

Huawei is keen to do business in India, and Beijing has warned New Delhi against blocking the Chinese company.   © AP

MUMBAI (NewsRise) -- Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei Technologies is "very confident" of being a part of India's fifth-generation cellular networks after clarifying all concerns about its products to the government, its country head said.

The embattled company has been blacklisted by the U.S. citing national security concerns, and the matter has remained a thorny issue in the prolonged tariff dispute between Washington and Beijing. The U.S. has accused Huawei of using its equipment to spy on other countries and banned its companies from supplying to the Chinese gear maker. It has also lobbied with other countries to ban its equipment. Huawei has denied all allegations.

While Huawei has been banned by Australia and New Zealand, India has yet to make its stance clear on whether it will be allowed to participate in the upcoming 5G trials.

"I am very confident that Huawei will be a part of India's 5G journey," Jay Chen, Huawei's India head, told NewsRise in New Delhi on the sidelines of the Indian Mobile Congress. "We have a very close engagement with the Indian government, the industry, and Indian consumers. We have clarified all the concerns about our 5G solutions and 5G security to all of them."

The 5G networks are expected to bring internet speed of up to 100 times faster than those the 4G networks, and is the key to new internet technologies such as artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

In August, Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh that supports Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, urged the government to ban Chinese telecom companies from India's networks, citing "unacceptable security risk."

Beijing has warned India against blocking Huawei from doing business in country, saying any such move will have consequences on the Indian companies operating in China, Reuters reported in August. Earlier this month, during a visit to India, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross reiterated U.S. concerns about New Delhi involving Huawei in 5G trials.

India -- the second largest telecom market in the world and home to more than a billion mobile phone users, offers a significant business opportunity to Huawei.

"Indian market is the most important and strategic for Huawei globally," Chen said. He expects India to be the second-biggest 5G network in the world.

New Delhi is aiming to hold 5G airwaves auction later this fiscal year. But the government has yet to set the base price of the airwaves. The industry has been up in arms against the regulator's proposed reserve price for the auction, forcing the government to reform the pricing regime.

The Indian telecom industry has in the past backed Huawei's participation in the 5G roll out, arguing that allowing only a few vendors will lead to other security concerns.

"We want all the vendors to be allowed in the trials. If there are any security concerns, those should be addressed through proper guidelines and regulations," Rajan Mathews, the director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, said earlier this month.

Sunil Bharti Mittal, the billionaire founder of Bharti Airtel, India's second-largest mobile phone company by number of users, also backed Huawei at that time, saying its products are "superior" to European rivals such as Nokia Networks and Ericsson.

Chen said the company's future investments into manufacturing in India will depend on the prospects of its business.

"Recently, the Indian government announced a lot of regulations to attract manufacturing in India. We are studying those regulations."

--Ujjwal Narayan and Dhanya Ann Thoppil

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