The Chinese equipment maker Huawei is battling to reverse the ban on its equipment in various countries. After the US, Australia and New Zealand governments ditched Huawei (along with ZTE) from installing its 5G gears fearing possible spying by the Chinese government, there has been a barrage of statements, and clarifications issued by the company to defend its position.
The looming threat of similar bans in other countries, including India, is forcing the company to clear the air around its 5G equipment. Jay Chen, CEO of Huawei India says that the matter is political. "We believe this is political issue. I had many interactions with various government departments such as PMO, and DoT. In all my engagements with the Indian government, nobody told me that we are a problem. My engagements with the Indian government are positive," says Chen.
In India, Huawei competes with Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung, and Cisco in the network equipment market. The company claims to have been in talks with Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, Reliance Jio and BSNL for 5G technology.
Huawei had received an invitation from the government in September to conduct 5G trials in the country; however, it's yet to begin trials. There are speculations that the government is re-considering its invitation in the wake of global backlash faced by the equipment maker. Chen says that it's awaiting approval from the DoT, and can begin trials immediately after the approval. Huawei executive pointed out that no OEM (original equipment maker) or operator has started 5G trials as of today, and the company is waiting for the government to give free spectrum for trials.
The 5G trials have hit a roadblock due to differences emerging out of the allocation of free spectrum for such trials. The DoT caps the free spectrum availability for 5G trials to 90 days whereas telecom operators and equipment makers want a minimum of 12 months to extensively test the networks.
For Huawei, the challenges are more than just free spectrum allocation as the government gears up for the 5G auction in the middle of this year. The regulatory agency TRAI, in its 5G recommendations, had imposed a limit of 100 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum for each operator (in 3300-3600 MHz band) at the base price of Rs 492 crore per MHz. Huawei, which also has a devices business, believes that 100 MHz of contiguous 5G spectrum would give 25-30 times more output as compared to 20 MHz of 4G spectrum.
Huawei found itself in the "political" quagmire last year when Pentagon banned the sale of Huawei and ZTE phones and network gears to US military bases worldwide. Other countries followed suit, and in December, Canada arrested Huawei's chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou - the daughter of Huawei's founder Ren Zhengfei - at the request of the US. Zhengfei has recently said that "no way the US can crush" his company.