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5G networks

India allows Huawei to participate in 5G trials

Move comes despite US push to ban the Chinese telecom equipment maker

 India is planning to mop up nearly $74 billion from the sale of 5G airwaves in an auction scheduled later next year.   © Reuters

MUMBAI (NewsRise) -- India has allowed Huawei Technologies to participate in the upcoming test launch of fifth-generation cellular networks, despite a U.S.-led backlash against the Chinese telecom gear maker.

India will provide the next-generation 5G wireless spectrum on trial basis without imposing any charge to all telecom players, including Huawei, Ravi Shankar Prasad, the minister of communications, said at an event on Tuesday. The trials are likely to start next month, he added.

The Indian government has been keeping its cards close to its chest about letting Huawei participate in the trials of high-speed 5G networks that is the key to new internet technologies such as artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

The decision to let Huawei participate in the 5G roll out comes despite the U.S. earlier this year raising concerns about such a move. Washington has been pushing other countries not to let Huawei participate in their 5G network deployment, accusing the company of using its equipment to spy on others. Huawei has denied all allegations.

Earlier on Tuesday, Huawei Chairman Eric Xu said the company won't be able to grow at the same pace as in the first half of this year when it reported an 18% rise in sales, Bloomberg reported, citing a message Xu wrote to company employees. The company warned that it may have to take a similar hit next year if the U.S. continues to impose curbs on its products. Xu was also cited as saying that "survival" will be Huawei's top priority.

Earlier this year, India's government set up an inter-ministerial panel to decide the criteria for the 5G trials, including whether Huawei should be allowed to participate, while a final decision was to be taken from the prime minister's office. India is planning to mop up nearly $74 billion from the sale of 5G airwaves in an auction scheduled later next year.

On Tuesday, authorities met all the 5G participants, including Huawei, a top official at the department of telecommunications, told reporters. India will soon provide 5G spectrum to these companies to start the trials next month, the official, who declined to be identified, said.

"The 5G spectrum has been given to everyone, only for trial," communications minister Prasad said in a Twitter post on Tuesday. "India must become a big hub of 5G innovation, good speed. We will work it out."

Huawei has remained a thorny issue in the prolonged tariff dispute between Washington and Beijing. China had warned India against blocking Huawei, saying any such move will have consequences on Indian companies operating in China, Reuters reported in August. A number of other countries such as Australia and New Zealand have already banned Huawei from their 5G operations. Earlier this year, Russia's MTS, however, signed a deal with Huawei to develop a 5G network.

"We firmly believe that only technology innovations and high-quality networks will be the key to rejuvenating the Indian telecom industry," Jay Chen, chief executive of Huawei India, said in a statement. "We have our full confidence in Indian government and industry..."

India's 5G roll out plan comes at a time when the industry is going through a turmoil. A prolonged price war and intense competition triggered by the entry of billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Jio Infocomm has eroded the profitability and revenue of mobile phone operators in the country. While some like Aircel have gone bankrupt, several players exited the market.

Top carriers Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are struggling to cough up funds to take part in the 5G spectrum auction.

-- Dhanya Ann Thoppil

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