According to a report from India’s Economic Times newspaper, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio Infocomm are “hedging their risks” against possible future bans against Huawei by the Indian Government.
In May this year, the US Department of Commerce put Huawei and ZTE on its newly created Entity List stating that the “U.S. Government has determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that Huawei has been involved in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”
In August 2018, the Australian Government officially banned Huawei from all components of that country’s 5G rollout, citing security concerns.
As a result of that ban, Australia’s fourth largest broadband provider TPG Telecom, which had invested heavily in 5G spectrum and Huawei equipment, shocked the local industry by scrapping its plans to become the country’s fourth mobile carrier.
The three Indian telcos may well have paid attention to the TPG case, wishing to avoid the financial penalty paid by that company for investing in Huawei technology to fuel its entry into the mobile space.
The Economic Times also raises the argument that has ben raging in Australia about whether the core elements of a 5G network (5G core) can be separated from the radio communications elements (5G RAN).
The core is the intelligence at the heart of the network that handles network traffic across all the network access points, including fixed and wireless. The RAN (radio access network) includes all the communications equipment that will be found at the edge of the network, including base stations, antennas and IoT devices.
In Australia, intelligence agencies contend that unlike earlier evolutions of cellular technology, the 5G Core cannot be separated from the 5G RAN, a contention that is hotly disputed by a number of experts in the field and academia.
However, the UK Government has taken the view that the 5G Core can indeed be separated from the 5G RAN and in April this year gave the go ahead for Huawei to become a 5G RAN equipment supplier to UK telcos. According to a report in July, all of the UK telco operators are now using Huawei 5G RAN equipment.
According to The Economic Times, unnamed sources from Indian telcos say they favour going the UK route and using Huawei for only the 5G RAN portion of their rollouts as a middle ground compromise between China and the US.
For its part, Huawei appears to be resigned to the fact that its revenues from the US sphere of influence, including Western Europe, will be constrained by being confined to the supply of only 5G RAN portion of network rollouts.