Without Huawei and ZTE in India, Airtel and Vodafone-Idea's battle against Jio to become tougher

Without Huawei and ZTE in India, Airtel and Vodafone-Idea's battle against Jio to become tougher
Huawei and ZTE are being phased out of India's future telecom networksBI India
  • India may not have officially declared a ban, but Chinese network equipment manufacturers Huawei and ZTE are being pushed out of the country.
  • The impetus on driving China’s technology out of the country comes amidst border tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) that has crossed the three-month mark.
  • Jio is planning to build its 5G network in-house, but for Airtel and Vodafone-Idea, the next-gen telecom network may get more expensive to deploy.
India hasn’t come right out and said it, but Huawei and ZTE don’t have a very bright future in the country. In the absence of any official ban, government officials are reportedly telling telecom operators to avoid using equipment from the two Chinese giants in their networks.

What could be a blessing in disguise for Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio may well make deploying 5G more expensive for India’s two other players, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone-Idea.

“It’s open now that the government is not going to allow Chinese equipment,” a telecom executive told the Financial Times. Greyhound Research founder and CEO Sanchit Vir Gogia agrees that the intent of the Indian government is evident regardless of any official notice being in place.

The silent boycott of Huawei and ZTE comes as India and China are locked in a faceoff in Ladakh. Even after five rounds of talks, the progress of disengagement and de-escalation has been going at snail’s pace.

5G gets more expensive for Airtel and Vodafone-Idea
Yes, there are alternatives to ZTE and Huawei when it comes to 5G networks. However, despite the popularity and authority of legacy equipment manufacturers like Ericsson and Nokia, they don’t have one thing that Chinese companies are known for — keeping it cheap.

Without ZTE and Huawei in the mix, Airtel and Vodafone-Idea are likely to end up shelling out more money to get their 5G networks set up. Another hurdle in their plans of taking on Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio.

Airtel especially has relied mostly on Huawei for its networking needs in the past.

Jio, on the other hand, is already 5G ready. "I have great pride in announcing that Jio has designed and developed a complete 5G solution from scratch,” said Ambani at Reliance Industries’ Annual General Meeting (AGM) last month — the wait is only for the government to officially start making the airwaves available.

The dispute between India and China may be in the Himalayas, but the real action is taking place in the technology space. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government first banned 59 Chinese apps, and now it’s going after the telecom operators.

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