Chinese telecommunications equipment maker Huawei is expected to conduct 5G trials for Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, sources said, as the central government finalises the trial runs before the spectrum auctions.
Sources said both Airtel and Vodafone have also joined ZTE, Nokia and Ericsson, apart from Huawei, for conducting the 5G trials. Reliance Jio will rope in South Korean equipment maker Samsung.
State-owned BSNL is also likely to go with ZTE. The firms have submitted applications for 5G trials, industry sources said.
The Chinese firm had had come under a cloud after there were allegations that its electronic and telecom devices helped China to spy on US corporations and agencies. The firm has been barred in Australia and Japan, but welcomed in Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
The central government had even constituted a committee headed by its principal scientific advisor to decide on Huawei’s participation in the 5G trials. The trials would establish use cases in the country as a precursor to the full-fledged launch of 5G services.
However, last month, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said the government will allocate airwaves to all telecom service providers for conducting trials of super-fast 5G network, and will not bar any equipment suppliers in the trials. The stance had spelt relief for Chinese telecom gear maker Huawei, which rivals western equipment makers such as Ericsson and is facing curbs in the US.
Huawei India CEO Jay Chen had earlier stated the company firmly believes that only technology innovations and high-quality networks will be the key to rejuvenating the Indian telecom industry.
“We have our full confidence in the [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi government to drive 5G in India. We have our full confidence in Indian government and industry to partner with best technology for India’s own long-term benefit and also for cross-industry development,” Chen had recently said.
When contacted, Rajan Mathews, director general of industry body Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), said, “We are pleased that Department of Telecom (DoT) is progressing with the 5G trials to ensure the implementation of National Digital Communications Policy.”
Improving data speed
The Union government has begun the process of auctioning 5G spectrum with the aim of improving data speed and bringing in Internet of Things (IoT), which will further enable robotic surgeries, driverless cars, among other things.
On December 20, the Digital Communications Commission (DCC) — the apex decision-making body — at the telecom department approved the auctions across 22 circles.
A lion’s share of 6050 MHz has been set aside for 5G spectrum, trials for which are widely-expected to begin between January and March.