As the telecom department gears up to ask private telcos to gradually lower their dependence on Chinese equipment, industry body COAI on Thursday said geopolitical issues are the under the purview of the government and should be kept separate from corporate decisions. Cellular Operators' Association of India (COAI) - whose members include private telcos such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea - further said that so far, the government had not mandated exclusion of any vendors' equipment from private operator networks.
When government makes laws, companies are "duty-bound" to comply with them, it said. "Geopolitical issues are the provenance of the government and such decisions are distinct; and should ideally be kept separate from commercial decisions which are the provenance of companies," COAI Director General, Rajan Mathews told PTI.
As such, companies are driven in their decisions by the interest of provisioning the best possible service to their customers and to take care of the interest of their stakeholders, he said.
In a hardening of stance in the backdrop of tensions at the Indo-China border, the government has decided to ask state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) not to use Chinese telecom gear in its 4G upgradation, which is being supported as part of the company revival package, according to sources. The development comes at a time when Indian and Chinese armies are engaged in a standoff in Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie in eastern Ladakh.
The standoff has stirred anti-China sentiments in India, with protesters and some trade bodies like Confederation of All India Traders calling for a boycott of Chinese products in protest to border standoff.
Sources privy to discussions being held in Department of Telecom said it has been decided that BSNL will be asked not to use Chinese equipment in upgradation to 4G network, which is being supported by its revival package. The department is likely to seek tweaking of the tender in this regard. A similar message will be conveyed to Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL), sources said.
Moreover, the department is even considering measures to urge private telecom operators to bring down their dependence on Chinese-made telecom equipment. "When government makes laws, then companies are duty-bound to adhere to them. To date, government had not mandated the exclusion of any vendors equipment from private operator's networks," COAI's Mathews said. Amid the face-off between Indian and Chinese troops in Galwan Valley, hashtags like "HindiCheeniByeBye" and "BharatVsChina" were trending on Twitter.
Earlier on Wednesday, Chinese handset maker Oppo cancelled the livestream launch of its flagship 5G smartphone in the country amid protests calling for the boycott of Chinese products in various parts of the country. Oppo, which ranks among the top five smartphone vendors in India, had said it will livestream the launch of its Find X2 smartphone via YouTube. However, the livestream was cancelled later on, and the company instead uploaded a pre-recorded video.
Notably, four of the five top smartphone brands in India (Xiaomi, Vivo, Realme and Oppo) are from China and accounted for almost 76 per cent share of smartphones shipped in India in the quarter ended March 2020. South Korea's Samsung, which ranked third and cornered 15.6 per cent share of shipment in the said quarter is the only non-Chinese firm in the top five tally.
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