India apparently latest focus of U.S. 5G influence campaign
The U.S. government urged Indian authorities not to use telecom gear from Chinese vendor Huawei in the country’s future 5G networks as the Trump administration continues its trade war with Beijing, the Financial Times reported.
Last week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross warned the Indian government that Huawei can use backdoors to spy and steal personal data if installed in India’s national infrastructure.
“Anybody who thinks we are doing this for protectionism simply doesn’t know the facts. We hope that our geopolitical partner India does not inadvertently subject itself to untoward security risk”, said Ross during a recent visit in Delhi.
“In 5G, if there is a penetration, if there is, in fact, a backdoor, it’s going to infiltrate the whole system. So the proportionality of risk, we think, is very considerable,” Ross said, adding that at the end of the day, “India has to make its own decision.”
Sunil Bharti Mittal, chairman of Bharti Enterprises, which owns Bharti Airtel, India’s largest telecom operator, affirmed that the decision to use Huawei gear should be adopted by the Indian authorities. “The US advisory is well taken from our point of view. But Indians will have to decide for themselves, given their relationship with China and the larger context,” Mittal reportedly said.
The executive also said that Huawei should be allowed to take part in 5G contracts in the country. “My view is they should be in play, I really feel they should be in play,” Sunil Bharti Mittal said last week at the World Economic Forum’s India summit.
“Huawei over the last 10 or 12 years has become extremely good with their product, to a point where I can safely say today their product … is significantly superior to Ericsson and Nokia,” he said, adding that Airtel has been using equipment from the three vendors in its 3G and 4G networks.
Mittal also said that that India should let Huawei in to avoid being too dependent on Western companies.
In August, the Chinese government told India that there could be consequences for Indian firms with operations in China if Huawei Technologies was banned from the deployment of 5G in the country.
During a recent meeting with India’s ambassador in Beijing, Chinese officials said there could be “reverse sanctions” on Indian firms engaged in business in China, should India block the Chinese vendor because of pressure from the U.S. government.
Indian authorities had previously confirmed that they had received six proposals for 5G trials, including offers from Chinese vendors Huawei and ZTE.
India’s telecom and IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had previously said that the government would take “a firm view” on Huawei’s participation in 5G trials, and added that whether the vendor is allowed or not to take part in 5G trials is a complex issue involving security concerns.
A panel of experts which had been analyzing the security issues regarding a potential participation of Huawei in the country’s 5G trials found no evidence to suggest Huawei has used “back-door” programs or malware to collect data in its current operations in India, according to previous reports. The interior ministry, which oversees the security of the telecoms infrastructure in the country, also has issued no directive to ban the participation of Huawei in the deployment of 5G networks.
Huawei was blacklisted by the U.S government in May, as the Trump administration considers that the Chinese government use the vendor to carry out spying activities. Under the terms of the ban, U.S firms willing to export components and software to Huawei have to apply for a license.