India's telcos avoid Chinese suppliers for 5G operations

5G could be the catalyst for India's digital economy that has the potential to reach US$1 trillion. PHOTO: REUTERS

MUMBAI (BLOOMBERG) - India's wireless carriers have avoided partnering with Chinese telecom players for 5G services, the fallout of a bloody border stand-off between the neighbours, as they start trial operations in the South Asian nation.

Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio Infocomm, Vodafone Idea and state-run Mahanagar Telephone Nigam have tied up with equipment makers Ericsson, Nokia, Samsung Electronics and state-run Centre for Development of Telematics, the telecom department said in a statement on Tuesday (May 4).

Reliance Jio will also conduct trials using its own technology. The trial duration will be for six months, including a two-month period for procurement and setting up of equipment.

The telecom operators' decision to avoid Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp echoes actions by the US, Britain and Australia, which have raised red flags about the companies' Chinese government links.

While India allowed Huawei to participate in its 5G trials earlier, its stance hardened after clashes with Chinese troops along the disputed border last year. India banned ByteDance's viral short-video service TikTok and dozens of other Chinese apps, citing threats to its sovereignty and security.

The wireless carriers are keen to roll out a high-speed wireless network that can offer better user experience in streaming, gaming and entertainment in a market where Netflix to are making inroads.

With applications ranging from manufacturing to education and healthcare, 5G could be the catalyst for India's digital economy that has the potential to reach US$1 trillion (S$1.34 trillion) by 2025, according to a report by Deloitte.

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio last week said it is conducting field trials for network performance for its 5G network and standardizing device configurations from equipment manufacturers. Rival Bharti Airtel has recently acquired airwaves to bolster its telecom infrastructure and claw back market share from top rival Reliance Jio.

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