The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) now gains the right to bar Chinese telecom equipment suppliers from participating in the tenders floated by state-run companies, and central and state governments, as per a government notification issued on Wednesday. The government uses telecom gear in railways, smart city missions and projects such as BharatNet, India’s mission to provide internet connectivity to rural areas. The move is a huge setback for Chinese suppliers such as Huawei, ZTE, and UTStarcom, who might be barred from taking part in government projects in the coming years.
DoT Addresses Government Regarding Chinese Gear Makers Ban
The provision of clause 10(d) of Public Procurement (Preference to Make in India) can now "be invoked in relation to certain telecom items against any foreign government that is deemed unfair to Indian telecom suppliers", as per a DoT letter addressed to central, state governments and PSUs dated February 19.
The telecom equipment listed in this letter includes optical fibre, 2G/3G/4G/LTE modems, routers, Wi-Fi-based broadband wireless access system and GPON equipment. Though the notification does not exactly mention China, its implications for Chinese firms are clear since the Chinese government clearly doesn’t allow Indian suppliers in telecom and power sectors.
“The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade has identified DoT as the nodal department for implementing the provisions related to the procurement of goods, services or works related to the telecommunication sector," the letter said, according to Livemint.
Banning Chinese Gear Makers Will Hurt India Itself
This latest development comes days ahead of US President Donald Trump’s visit to India, who in the past hit out at Chinese equipment suppliers over security risks. The US has also urged allies to ban Huawei from participating in 5G networks.
The move will, however, hurt India more as per analysts as it struggles to provide the internet for half its population. The Chinese vendors are more price-competitive than others when it comes to supplying telecom equipment. Indian companies such as Airtel and Vodafone Idea have already partnered with Huawei for 5G trials. On the other hand, state-run BSNL will be teaming up with ZTE to conduct trials in India very soon.