5G Chinese Telecom Gear: Parliamentary Panel Quizzes Top Officials
A sign advertising 5G network-enable phones sits on display inside a EE mobile phone store, operated by BT Group Plc, in Reading, U.K. (Photographer: Jason Alden/Bloomberg)

5G Chinese Telecom Gear: Parliamentary Panel Quizzes Top Officials

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Members of a parliamentary committee on Tuesday quizzed top government officials on whether there is a ban on the purchase of equipment from Chinese vendors for 5G infrastructure in India, sources said.

Top officials of the Telecom Ministry and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India deposed before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information and Technology, which is chaired by senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor.

Representatives of three major telecom operators -- Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd., Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Vodafone Idea Ltd. -- also deposed before the panel on Tuesday which met to deliberate on India's preparedness on 5G.

Members questioned the top government officials on whether Chinese companies were banned from being part of the 5G infrastructure in India, the sources said.

However, the officials could not confirm whether there is a ban on purchasing telecom gear from Chinese manufacturers for 5G services in India, they said.

Also read: All-India 5G Rollout May Need Up To Rs 2.3 Lakh Crore Investment, Says Motilal Oswal

The officials told the members during the meeting that in theory, there is no ban on Chinese companies for participating in 5G services, but like other companies from bordering countries, they too have to go through extra clearances, the sources said.

Deposing before the panel, telcos expressed concern over the delay in rolling out of 5G services in India, cost and availability of 5G spectrum in the country, they said.

The service providers made detailed presentations on their state of readiness in launching 5G services in the country and stressed the need for faster policy clearances in this regard, the sources said.

Public telecom firms will procure network equipment as per the existing general financial rules that impose restrictions on vendors from countries that share land border with India, Minister of State for Telecom Sanjay Dhotre had informed Rajya Sabha last month.

The government in July amended the GFR 2017 to enable the imposition of restrictions on bidders from countries which share a land border with India on grounds of defence of India, or matters directly or indirectly related thereto including national security.

Licensed Telecom Service Providers deploy network equipment procured from various manufacturers, subject to compliance to stipulated terms and conditions of license agreement including security conditions.

Also read: 5G Rollout: India Yet To Take Final Call On Chinese Vendors, Says NITI Aayog CEO

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd.'s tender for 4G upgrade was cancelled after the Department of Telecom asked the state-run firm not to use Chinese telecom gear, according to a source.

The source privy to the development said that a new tender will be floated which will have an emphasis on preference to Make in India.

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