In the COVID chaos, technology is undoubtedly a winner. Businesses, households, schools, healthcare all rely on it. This surge in technology reinforces the need for a 5G network. With the increase in technology at a superfast rate, India needs more advancement. India needs a 5G network. And who is the global leader in this race? Huawei, China- the antagonists, our greatest arch-foes today.
A Chinese multi-national enterprise, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong, was founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei. After overtaking Ericsson in 2012, Huawei is a leading global provider of information and communication technology, infrastructure, and smart devices. It is also the second-largest manufacture of smartphones around the globe.
Losing the bus on 2G, 3G to Japan, and 4G to the US was too much for China. Not wanting to lose this race any further, the Chinese had started researching 5G in 2013. They were ready to conduct trials by 2016. Huawei became the first company worldwide to launch the first 5G commercial chip. And today, Huawei is a global leader in 5G tech. They closed FY 2019 with annual revenue of $121.72 billion US dollars.
INDIA’S REFUSAL TO DEAL WITH CHINESE TECH
5G refers to the fifth-generation mobile networks, promising ultra-fast download speed with the ability to support critical infrastructure. Though uncertain about letting the company sell its equipment in India, Modi allowed Huawei and ZTE to participate in trials for 5G networks. “We are at a loss as to what to do as an operator — should we order Huawei equipment or should we not?”, said Akhil Gupta, vice chairman of Bharti Enterprises.
But all changed with the recent border tension with China when twenty Indian Army personnel were martyred along the India-China border. On one side there is a soaring need for 5G and on the other geopolitical wrangling over equipment manufacturing.
In the first front, India made a digital strike on China, banning popular Chinese applications like TikTok and WeChat. TikTok incurred a loss of $6 billion after this ban.
On June 17, 2020, the government asked state-owned telecommunications, BSNL and MTNL to stop using telecom gear from China for upgrading their 4G networks. But this will come at a cost. The Indian market share here is about Rs. 12000 crore and China accounts for approximately 25%. Chinese vendors like Huawei offer cheaper equipment but banning them could be possible because of the availability of European vendors. However, this may lead to an 18-20% increase in production costs.
The situations have turned out to be so intense that it doesn’t matter now. If banning China completely, be an option for Indians, they won’t step behind.
OTHER COUNTRIES: HYE HUAWEI OR BYE HUAWEI?
Huawei technology faces 5G wireless network project bans and business contract restrictions in some countries.
The countries of ‘Five Eyes Alliance’, namely, United States, Australia, and New Zealand have backlisted Huawei. On January 28, 2019, the U.S Department of Justice charged Huawei with bank fraud. Now, the U.S is of the fact that Huawei gears contain “back doors”, which would help China to spy on other countries. Some countries allege Huawei, saying that they steal intellectual property from foreign tech companies. Huawei has, however, denied all such allegations saying that they would lose customers if they weren’t trustworthy.
Other countries are taking steps to reduce their reliance on Chinese companies. France is beginning to sideline Huawei and wants to limit the company’s market share to 13%. The United Kingdom plans to start phasing out the use of Huawei equipment in its 5G networks. On July 14, 2020, UK announces to ban the country companies from buying Huawei equipment for 5G networks from December 31, 2020. Other major economies in Japan and Korea exclude 5G systems from Chinese firms. In Israel, Chinese companies have been absent since 3G came.
According to Bob Seely, a conservative member of the UK Parliament, “The 5G debate in Europe reflects a changed geopolitical reality. The relationship between the U.K. and China, and the world and China, and the United States and China, is fundamentally changing. The government is now realizing that the China they want is not the China they’re getting.” Canada, who was much waiting for UK’s response will now probably ban Huawei soon.
For more than half a year, Trumph had been forcing countries to block Huawei from 5G networks. Boasting his success, he says, “Look, how tough I’ve been on Huawei. Nobody has been tougher than me.”
The US ban led to Huawei not being able to use Google Mobile Services. Despite these pressures, Huawei has reported a positive financial record for H1 2020, $64.8 billion, which is a 13% year-on increase.
THE CHANCE IS NOW
India’s existing telecom infrastructure is overloaded. Thanks to irrational pricing. However, the industry needs to work on cutting down costs, reducing debts, and transforming into financially healthy companies. Exploring 5G standards and equipment locally, is now a must for India.
Even before the India-China clash, Mukesh Ambani, the richest man in Asia, was working on to replace Huawei. The founder of Reliance Jio, Ambani has already filed applications with the Department of Telecom to commence 5G tests. If Jio succeeds, it will be the first carrier in the world to develop its 5G technology instead of partnering with network providers like Nokia or Huawei. Airtel has also announced its partnership with Finnish network provider Nokia, to lay the foundation for its 5G network. Two of the biggest telecom companies in India with nearly 70 million subscribers can easily keep Huawei out.
The DoT-backed project is being billed as the biggest collaborative effort between these institutes and will aim to develop a comprehensive test-bed for 5G that can be used by telecoms as well as the end consumer. But that isn’t enough. India needs a new team of experts that can build indigenous solutions.
India can learn from Huawei itself. As soon as the US barred Huawei from dealing with American companies, the Chinese kickstarted work on its homegrown operating system, Harmony OS, to take on Google’s Android.
India cannot leave this crisis to go to waste. The time is such that we cannot leave manufacturing to others. Definitely, not to a Chinese company.