On the heels of the Indian government imposing restrictions on public procurement from countries that India shares a border with, a decision clearly aimed at China, sources told CNBC-TV18 that a Department of Telecommunications (DoT) committee has recommended banning Chinese equipment makers from participating in 5G trials and eventual auction.
A 6-member committee had been appointed comprising of members from the DoT, Intelligence Bureau, and National Security Council to review the role that Chinese equipment players will have in the upcoming 5G trials and eventual auctions. CNBC-TV18 was the first to report on this committee being appointed.
Senior DoT officials confirmed that the committee has recommended banning the Chinese vendors like Huawei & ZTE from India's 5G plans altogether. "The committee has recommended excluding Chinese companies from the trial and auctions citing security concerns. The committee does not want remote access to be granted to Chinese vendors and does not want data going out of the country due to Chinese equipment players," said a DoT official who did not want to be named.
All foreign vendors have hubs for remote access and data storage located overseas. "While the committee was mulling only imposing restrictions on vendors that have hubs overseas, it observed the impact would be on all foreign firms, whereas the concerns around security are towards Chinese companies. Hence, they have recommended excluding Chinese equipment vendors altogether," he added.
According to the sources, the committee has also recommended that NSA oversee even the 5G trial participation to ensure there are no security breaches.
DoT asks telcos to consider reviewing future partnership, orders with Chinese firms: Sources
Meanwhile, sources amongst the telecom operators said that no communication has come in from Chinese companies yet. The move can increase procurement cost for telecom operators by 20-25 percent.
After an intensive review, the DoT in January gave its nod to all telecom operators to conduct 5G trials. However, the spectrum for the testing is yet to be given, which is why the trials haven't started by telecom service providers.
Huawei and ZTE are the two Chinese players that have featured in the applications. Bharti Airtel has applied for the 5G trials in partnership with Huawei, Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung while Vodafone Idea has applied for it with Huawei, ZTE, Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung.
Jio has applied for the trials with Samsung, and BSNL has applied with ZTE. Jio has also submitted a fresh application to test its own 5G gear. Last year, the DoT had done a detailed review of security concerns cited by the US around Huawei and cleared Huawei's participation in the auctions.