Huawei is facing massive headwinds in India with no new network contracts likely to come their way as a consequence of the overall sentiment against Chinese companies.
While European network vendors such as Nokia and Erricson are gearing up for the upcoming 5G rollout, the Chinese multinational may find it difficult to get the mandatory “trusted sources” tag, thus excluding them from any future 4G and 5G network rollout. Sources have also told BusinessLine that operators are unlikely to consider Huawei for any future network rollout, both in 4G and 5G.
Another source told BusinessLine, on condition of anonymity, that the quality of maintenance and servicing by Huawei for its existing network sites has also deteriorated.
Vodafone Idea most exposed
At present, Vodafone Idea has the maximum number of Huawei network sites, followed by Airtel which has Huawei networks in Karnataka. It remains unknown whether Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea will switch Huawei circles to other network vendors. However, a top network executive told BusinessLine, on conditions of anonymity, that a telco is exploring this option and the discussion is in early stages. “Everything and anything is being discussed,” said the source.
India’s shadowban on Chinese network vendors is a consequence of the bloody clash between Indian and Chinese forces that occurred nearly two years ago in Galwan. As a consequence, The National Security Directive on Telecom Sector was approved by the cabinet in December 2020. According to this, only “trusted products” from “trusted sources” could be used by the operators to set up telecommunications networks in the future.
Open RAN could replace Chinese vendors
This could be an issue for operators as well, since Chinese network products are cheaper than products offered by their European and Korean counterparts. But with many new players exploring the Open Radio Access Network, experts believe that indigenous vendors such as TCS and Tech Mahindra could fill the gap. “It will, however, take 3-5 years for indigenous makers to be a viable alternative. For now, they serve as a bargaining chip for operators,” said an expert.
When contacted by BusinessLine for a comment, Huawei noted, “India market is very complex with many challenges. Recent developments in India have undoubtedly been a test for Huawei. Just as our customers in India have overcome their many challenges to find solutions, we are confident that issues here will also be addressed similarly. Our relationship with our customers across enterprise and telecom has been built over decades powered by our core value of customer-centricity. We will continue to be rooted in India and serve our customers well.”