By Gokul Bhagabati
As India increases the scrutiny of Chinese companies and their products over the national security concerns, a top executive of Swedish gear maker Ericsson said on Monday that it has a process in place to meet the security, privacy and regulatory requirements of its customers for the 5G era in the country.
The auction of 5G spectrum in India was earlier expected to be held in April, but the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed back the deadline.
Late last year, the government decided that it will give 5G spectrum for trials to all vendors and operators who applied, including Huawei and ZTE.
However, India’s border tensions with China has renewed calls for barring Huawei and ZTE from bidding for India’s 5G network by certain groups in India, including the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT).
Earlier this month, the traders’ body even sent a letter to Union IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in this regard.
Asked if an increased scrutiny of Chinese companies will give the company some extra mileage in terms of capturing the 5G market, Ericsson India’s Managing Director Nitin Bansal said the company focuses on providing competitive solutions making its customers win in the market.
“We do not base our business plans on things which we cannot control. We believe our promise to the customer is based on our technology leadership. As is evident globally, we have been winning business and customers based on our technology capabilities and leadership,” Bansal told IANS in an interview.
Ericsson said it has close to 100 commercial 5G agreements or contracts globally with unique service providers, of which 54 are live networks.
“Pioneering customers select us as their 5G partner and we were first with commercial live networks in four continents. This includes multiple service providers in the United States, South Korea, Europe as well as in Australia and Middle East,” Bansal said.
In India, Ericsson has been working with operator partners as well as the academia community to test and develop various 5G use cases which are relevant for the country.
The Swedish gear maker last year announced that it was selected by Vodafone Idea Limited to deploy 5G-ready equipment across select markets in India.
Later in that year, Ericsson announced a memorandum of understanding with Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) to work together on developing new 5G use cases, knowledge sharing on 5G technology concepts, industry and innovation trends including 3GPP standardisation progress.
Amid calls for barring Chinese companies from 5G in India, there has also been a concern that even non-Chinese companies may use Chinese equipment in 5G network given the nature of global supply chain, thereby rendering such a possible ban ultimately meaningless.
Ericsson said that the telecom equipment that the company supplies to Indian telcos is made in India and it is also exporting 5G radios to other markets from its facility in Pune.
“We manufacture telecom equipment, including 4G, 5G radios and microwave products at our Pune facility,” Bansal noted.
“We have processes in place to ensure the development, production, shipping and deployment of our products, solutions and services to meet the security, privacy and regulatory requirements of our customers,” he said.
Ericsson said it has a global software development strategy, with engineers working with software for new products, including 4G and 5G radios and baseband, on several sites across the globe.
“All Ericsson’s software is verified, signed and distributed centrally from Sweden, and, when so required, under Swedish export licenses. In all our manufacturing and software development facilities globally, Ericsson ensures that strict security controls are in place,” Bansal mentioned.
“In addition, we undertake close quality controls, tests and verifications to ensure compliance to our security standards and overall specification of our network solutions,” he added.
A recent Ericsson Consumer Lab survey done amid the Covid-19 crisis has shown that 62 per cent of consumers in India wished 5G had been rolled out much faster to help them deal with the current crisis.
(Gokul Bhagabati can be contacted at email@example.com)