As the countries around the world look for clean networks by phasing out Chinese equipment in their telecommunication infrastructure, Airtel, the Indian telecom giant, has given a contract worth 300 crore rupees to Huawei, the Chinese telecom gear manufacturer that has long been at the centre of the controversy around the world.
“This is kind of a deal which is considered massive in this space. Airtel has already issued a procurement order (PO) to Huawei…the value of this deal is a major part of Airtel’s overall capex budget for non-radio network,” an industry executive of Huawei’s rival company revealed to Economic Times.
Last year, countries like the United Kingdom, Italy, Canada dumped Huawei after it was exposed to supplying data to the People’s Liberation Army, the armed forces of the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese armed forces have full access to Huawei’s telecom network infrastructure because the company is practically owned by the CCP.
As per a report by the Economic Times, the deal is part of Airtel’s expansion of the National Long-distance network (LND) which is currently run by Huawei. This proves that the network is already run by Huawei as the Chinese company is the cheapest and most efficient when it comes to supplying and managing new equipment, Airtel would have saved hundreds of crores of rupees by awarding the project to Huawei.
However, Airtel’s effort to save a few hundred crore rupees would endanger the security of the country and its citizens in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. “India should not risk its critical telecom infrastructure again. India runs a risk of again going back to Chinese vendors or short-term cost benefits. As the border dispute situation de-escalates between India and China, India companies may rush to embrace Chinese vendors which could be a long-term issue,” said a telecom industry executive.
It is imperative to note that the US Federal Communications Commission had formally designated Huawei and ZTE as national security threats, back in June last year. “Huawei, an arm of the PRC surveillance state, is trading on the innovations and reputations of leading US and foreign companies,” said Mike Pompeo, the then Secretary of State of the United States.
Moreover, the United States introduced the concept of clean telecom networks in order to ensure that the Free World is not trapped in the clutches of CCP. But, ignoring all this, Airtel reportedly chose to prioritise a few hundred crore rupees over the security of the billions of citizens of the country.
This will hurt the company in the long term because the anti-China sentiment among the majority of the people of the country would force them to move over to other networks that are clean.
Reliance Industries Limited Chairman Mukesh Ambani said last year that Jio has developed a homegrown 5G solution from scratch which will be ready for field deployment by next year. Moreover, the 4G network of Jio is also ‘clean’ because it develops most of the equipment by itself of the required imports are made from South Korea (Samsung).
Therefore, Mukesh Ambani had the golden opportunity to market Jio as a ‘clean’ network and built a whole brand strategy around that because, given the anger and distrust of the people against China, it will definitely work. So, Sunil Mittal led Airtel has not only risked the security of the people of the country but also harmed its business interests with the 300 crore rupees contract to the arm of the PRC surveillance state.