As the government is yet to take a call on Chinese telecom gearmaker Huawei's participation in 5G field experiments, Bharti Airtel chairman Sunil Mittal on Thursday took a stand supporting Huawei's presence in the 5G network buidling process in India even praising China's 3G and 4G products over its European competitors while hinting towards support for allowing it on the 5G trials.
Jay Chen, CEO, Huawei India responded to Airtel chairman's support on a global summit saying "We have always been pushed by Bharti management team to do better and improve more under pressure. I am pleasantly surprised to hear Sunil Mittal express his views publicly on Huawei technology, solutions and services like this. Today myself, and my whole team humbly feels more obligated to serve Bharti and all our customers from our heart".
"My view is that they (Huawei) should be in play. I really think that they should be in play. India must use this leverage. Unlike opening it to many other western companies and then having very little leverage, I would rather have this leverage today.
"Huawei, for the last 10 to 12 years, have been extremely good with their products to the extent that I can say that we have been using their 3G and 4G products which are significantly superior to Nokia and Ericsson. India must use this leverage... they (Huawei) have powerful leading features. They are clearly leading the edge," Mittal said at the India Economic Summit, while adding his company uses the products of all three vendors.
"Huawei has actually surprised me on how fast they have been able to take the technology curve to the level where it is leading-edge...," he said.
Mittal, however, said India will take a decision on their own keeping its relationship with China in mind and the larger geopolitical context.
The support by the promoter of one of India's biggest telecom companies for Huawei on Thursday, saying it should be allowed to help build the country's 5G networks would go a long way to place Huawei in a strong pitch for its India operations.
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross earlier said at the panel that the concerns over Chinese telecom gear maker is security related, not on protectionism and advised India to refrain from using the Chinese vendor's equipment.
"While we do think that Huawei is important, but we do feel that there is a genuine security concern. Notion that our views on Huawei are a function of US protectionism is incorrect. There are genuine security issues. 5G is different from 3G and 4G. In 5G, if there is a penetration of backdoor, it will infiltrate the whole system and so the proportionality of risk is very considerable," Ross said.
Earlier, external Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had told an audience in Washington that India will weigh on merit the issues being faced by other countries with China while refusing to join US which describes 5G as a national security issue, saying "for India it is a telecom issue, not political".
"Our position on 5G for example is we don't see 5G as a political problem. 5G for us is a telecom issue. And we will make whatever decisions we have to at the right time on the merits of that particular decision," Jaishankar said at The Heritage Foundation think-tank event on Wednesday in response to a question.
As India is yet to take a decision on allowing Huawei to participate in the 5G trials, Mittal is the first top-rung telecom operator to publicly take a stand on Huawei as the country braces up for spectrum auction for 5G services as well.
Telecom Secretary Anshu Prakash recently had said any decision on Huawei will have te security angle in mind.
"Government will keep national interests in mind while deciding on Huawei on 5G trials," he had said.
In India, Huawei faces competition from Nokia, Ericsson and Samsung.
The government has received six proposals for 5G trials, including those from China's Huawei and ZTE, but Chinese vendor participation would hinge on the recommendations of a panel looking into 5G security issues, Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had told Parliament in June.
( With inputs from IANS )