State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) will take a ‘careful’ decision on further extending alliance with Chinese technology vendor ZTE for the rollout of fifth-generation or 5G network in the country, a top official said. “When it will come to rolling out 5G network, a cautious call will be taken,” BSNL chairman Anupam Shrivastava told, and added that the telecom technology would need to be protected. Shrivastava was responding to threat perception in deploying Chinese telecom gear. “Should there be a risk in technology, certainly, we won’t go ahead, and as long as it is indigenous and has no hazard in putting it up, we can advance,” the top BSNL official added.
BSNL, being a public sector entity, awards contract to vendors through a transparent tendering process. Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE, which is also at the centre of US president Donald Trump’s trade dominance war with China, was under immense pressure, following snooping concerns, initially raised by the US House Intelligence Committee way back in 2012. The Shenzhen-based company is accused of being founded by China’s Ministry of Aerospace for a purpose of spying on other nations.
In September 2017, state-owned BSNL has entered into a partnership with ZTE, and the companies had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to work together on 5G wireless technology for research and knowledge sharing purposes. The development had, however, come soon after a bitter military standoff between India and China in Doklam over construction roadwork by Chinese that ended in August 2017. The Indian government has invited ZTE rivals such as Nokia, Ericsson, Cisco and Huawei to undertake 5G field trials and showcase India-specific use cases by early 2019 in partnership with incumbents such as Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and BSNL, for which it plans to allocate free spectrum for a year.