India faces setbacks if it shuns Huawei in 5G era

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/4 21:03:14

Principal scientific adviser to the Indian government K Vijay Raghavan seems to hope India can suffer more setbacks in the development of 5G wireless communication. Setbacks can teach India, make the nation stronger, he seemingly believes.

Raghavan, who also heads a high-level committee on 5G, was quoted as saying by The Times of India (TOI) that India should "go for [5G] trials immediately with all, except for Chinese vendors." The TOI said in an editorial that "the government must heed Raghavan."

What consequences will a full ban on Chinese vendors bring to India? 

A report by telecoms lobby group GSMA can be used as a reference point. Citing the study, Reuters reported in June that a ban on buying telecoms equipment from Chinese companies including Huawei would add about $62 billion to the cost of 5G networks in Europe and delay the technology's deployment by about 18 months. 

The same challenges arise for India as it considers rejecting Huawei's 5G technologies. India will have to spend more money and time developing 5G technology.

The 5G era is coming. If India falls behind in the race to roll out this next generation of technology, Indian companies are very likely to lose their lead in a new wave of technologies and applications such as e-commerce and the Internet of Things.

It is easy to ban Huawei from India's 5G networks, but Raghavan has to answer a question: what can replace Huawei to help India roll out 5G in a cost-effective way? India is not a key player in 5G technology. If the country relies on its domestic telecom equipment makers or Western companies and rejects Chinese vendors, 5G could be delayed by years.

There's no quick and easy answer to Raghavan's question. Why? Huawei has invested heavily in 5G technologies since 2009 and worked with other Chinese technology companies to create a complete 5G industrial chain. 

Some Western countries have found themselves without a telecom hardware champion that can compete with Huawei, so they will have to eventually cooperate with the Chinese company despite a boycott at the beginning, because everyone in the world is in a race against time to roll out 5G. We believe that India will follow a similar scenario and accept Huawei's 5G technologies eventually.

Raghavan's idea can only make India suffer more setbacks in 5G development. India is welcome to go for 5G trials with other telecom equipment makers in the world, but that will be futile in the end. 

India is likely to eventually turn to Huawei for 5G, but in that case, will Raghavan take responsibility for the huge waste of time and money used to try other telecom equipment makers?

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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