India has given Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei the green light to try its hand in the country’s first 5G field trials set for the coming year. Blacklisted in the US, the company rejoiced at the news.
“The age of 5G is coming… We have taken a decision to give 5G spectrum for trials to all the players,” India’s telecommunications and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Monday. This comes after months of speculation as to whether New Delhi would follow the example of the US and some of its allies and shut out the Chinese firm from its budding 5G market.
Apparently, the government of PM Narendra Modi decided to keep its options open, allowing Huawei to take part in the trials. Asked about the Chinese firm in particular, Prasad doubled down, noting that “all players means all players.”
Huawei’s participation in the trials has been a contentious issue in India and a subject of a review by a special committee chaired by the principal scientific advisor, tasked with ensuring India’s security is not compromised as a result of the future trials.
The company has welcomed the decision, with Huawei India CEO Jay Chen expressing his gratitude to the Indian government for what he called its “continued faith in Huawei.”
“We have our full confidence in Indian Government and industry to partner with best technology for India’s own long term benefit and also for cross industry development. Huawei is always committed to India.”
Chen said he hopes the technical know-how and “high quality networks” possessed by Huawei – the world’s largest supplier of telecommunications network equipment – will help to revitalize the Indian telecom industry.
While it’s still unclear if New Delhi will take its cooperation with Huawei, which has been active in India since 1999, to a new level and allow it to sell its telecommunications equipment after the trials are over, the country has already defied its major ally, the US, which reportedly urged India to snub Huawei’s 5G bid, citing security concerns.
The US Department of Commerce reportedly sent a letter to the Indian government as far back as June, recommending it to study security-related issues before partnering with the Chinese firm.
Huawei, in turn, called on the Indian authorities to “make an independent decision on 5G” in September, vowing to address any security concerns that may arise in the process.
India plans to hold its 5G trials in the first quarter of the coming year, while the spectrum auctions for telecom technology are set to take place by the end of 2020. Washington has been on a global mission to stop any of its allies from enlisting the help of the Chinese firm to develop ultrafast 5G networks – however, while some of them caved in to the pressure, many, including Germany, Italy and Portugal, signaled they have no intention to bar Huawei from their respective 5G markets.
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