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Will India Follow the USA in banning Huawei kit from its networks?

Posted: August 15th, 2019

Will India Follow the USA in banning Huawei kit from its networks?

Huawei has had a difficult year so far. The world’s leading telecoms kit maker and the worlds second largest smart phone manufacturer has had to contend with President Trumps ban on the 15th of March 2019 which effectively stopped the Chinese telecoms giant from selling smart phones or any telecoms kit into the US due to national security fear.

There was a little easing of the trade ban in June when Huawei where allowed to sell some if its products in the US although the company remains on the Department of commerce’s blacklist.

The question that Huawei is asking itself no doubt is how many other countries will follow the US lead and ban its equipment from being installed into their national networks.

India has not had the best of relationships in the past with China and views Huawei with a suspicious eye believing in the rumours that the Chinese government had undue influence over Huawei and there are concerns that the Chinese government is using Huawei for spying on foreign networks. This issue now potentially leaves Huawei out of the bidding to supply India with core networking equipment for its new 5G infrastructure.

To compound Huawei’s woes their CFO Meng Wanzhou is still behind bars in a Canadian prison waiting to be extradited to the US. He is being charged by US officials with obstruction of Justice, money laundering and a ream of other offenses. It seems that the US is gunning for Huawei from all quarters.

Although the final decision as to whether to allow Huawei to bid to supply the infrastructure to India’s 5G network there are continuing behind the scene negotiations between Chinese officials and India’s ambassador in Beijing to see if the Indian government would reverse the decision and allow Huawei to bid in a market that is expected to grow to over $103 billion by 2020. India’s telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has still to reveal if Huawei will be invited or not.

Huawei 5G equipment can be found in networks around the far east, in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand. What attracts national 5G providers to Huawei’s kit is generally the cost. The UK in its usual non-committal ways has still to decide whether to follow the US by barring the Chinese company into its networks or open themselves up to the global market and allow Huawei to bid.

There are currently a few network operators in the UK who use Huawei kit in their infrastructure namely EE and Vodafone with O2 planning to follow their competitors into allowing Huawei equipment into their networks.

The intelligence community which makes up the “five eyes” that consists of the US, UK, New Zealand, Australia and Canada are not all in agreement with the ban. Only Canada despite banging up the Huawei CFO has not shut the door completely on Huawei. The UK as mentioned above are procrastinating as usual and will probably fold as is their current default political answer.

The issue here is who should be allowed to spy on their own citizens. After the revelations of Snowden, it seems a little hypocritical for the members of Five Eyes to cry foul of spying when they have been doing much of it themselves. We can only presume that each government feels they have a right to spy on their own sheep and no one else can stare at a given governments property.

India is still on the fence. They are tempted by the cost of the Huawei equipment and one can be in no doubt that the Chinese manufacturer is also dangling larger brown envelopes than their competitors to lubricate the wheels of government to force India off of the fence into Huawei’s open arms (jaws).

For the Indian government has to weigh up the strong possibility that Huawei is strongly influenced and subservient to the Chinese government and is just another cog in the state machine as a front for their spying activities. The Boss and founder Ren Zhengfei is a former member of the People’s Liberation Army raises questions and that fact can’t be very reassuring.

It has been rumoured for many years that all the major venders like Cisco, juniper, H.P etc have always had backdoors and kill switches programmed into them to allow easy access to these devices by government agencies under the guise of national security.

It comes as no surprise then since Huawei got their start in the networking equipment world by stumbling over Cisco operating system “Internetwork Operating System or simply IOS” that they decided to copy the Cisco OS in its entirety including backdoors and all.

These backdoors India claims have been used by the Chinese to access core networking devices. Something which the Chinese deny.

The trouble here is that money talks and when looking at the Huawei price list it becomes difficult to ignore the difference in costs. Plus, Huawei holds about 20% of all 5G patents that has allowed it to dominate the worlds 5G networks.

DON’T MESS WITH CHINA

The issues world governments face is one of having no backbone to stand up to the Chinese. They are afraid of upsetting them for fear of a trade war breaking out. Although to many observer’s the trade seems to be in one direction only straight into the coffers of Chinese firms whilst industry in the west pays the price for the cowardice of their own administrations.

It is possible that the US government have done the right thing by drawing a line in the sand and making a stand to protect their own industries. India as looking at the US as an example to stop the ever-increasing presence of Chinese equipment in sensitive national infrastructure.

Although the UK government in its belief it has found some form of middle ground has conceded to allow Huawei kit to be used in the last mile, such as home equipment and last mile transmitting equipment. This is an interesting proposal since it is much more difficult to repair and replace millions of home modems than it is to replace a few dozen core switches. But such is the stupidity of the UK authorities.

Whatever India decides they will have to live with the fallout of putting all its eggs onto a basket which has potential trapdoors. If India do deploy Huawei equipment and a ban does come, they will be left having to replace all core kit again.

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