Chinese telecom equipment manufacturers, including Huawei and ZTE, may continue to be barred from India's telecom sector due to concerns surrounding national security. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) officials have indicated that the government does not plan to issue trusted source certificates to these companies, said a BusinessStandard report. Speculations about the re-entry of Chinese fashion giant Shein in India through a joint venture with Reliance Industries had raised expectations of a potential opening for Chinese gear makers in the country's telecom industry. However, unnamed officials from the telecom department stated that no major telecom operators have procured "unauthorised equipment" thus far.
While European, US, and Indian rivals of Huawei and ZTE have received trusted source tags and approvals to supply network equipment on a case-by-case basis, these Chinese companies are yet to obtain such recognition. The trusted sources regime, implemented in December 2020, requires service providers in India to purchase equipment from trusted sources to ensure national security.
Although Huawei and ZTE continue to engage with Indian telecom operators, primarily Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel, for existing network maintenance contracts, they are limited to replacing existing parts. Even network upgrades require government clearances.
As India's leading telecom players, Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, are in the process of deploying their 5G networks, they have awarded equipment contracts to companies like Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung, effectively excluding Chinese vendors from the 5G race.
Vodafone Idea recently granted ZTE a new order worth approximately Rs 230 crore for optical transmission equipment in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh-Chhattisgarh (MP-CG) as part of network upgrades. In a similar vein, Airtel awarded Huawei a telecom infrastructure expansion contract worth Rs 150 crore last year, involving the upgrade and expansion of Airtel's National Long Distance (NLD) network. A previous contract worth Rs 300 crore was also awarded to Huawei by Airtel in 2021.
The exclusion of Huawei and ZTE from India's telecom industry reflects the government's steadfast commitment to ensuring national security and protecting sensitive telecommunications infrastructure. While Indian operators continue to explore partnerships with trusted sources, Chinese telecom gear makers face ongoing limitations in their participation in the country's burgeoning telecom sector.