5G in the first 100 days? Here’s what India’s new IT minister has to say

In the next 100 days, India will begin auctioning off the 5G spectrum, but the government has still not decided if Chinese telecom company Huawei will be a part of the trials. India’s new IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also said that he will revive BSNL and MTNL, if the companies operate more competitively.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is preparing to auction off 8,644 Mhz of frequencies for around Rs 5 lakh crore.

Prasad also wants BSNL and MTNL to enter the 5G market because he believes “that in order to maintain sober equilibrium in the industry, public sector must be present and it is in the nation’s interest that they remain healthy”, he said.

Prasad said the government is still taking stock of security issues associated with Huawei and has not yet decided if the company will be allowed to participate in the 5G trials.

5G services are provided by Verizon only in Chicago and Minneapolis, at the moment. The network is being beta-tested in other cities in the US, but not all consumers can avail its services yet.

Vox explains that companies are racing to successfully test and roll out 5G service because it will let introduce higher speeds, allow HD streaming on mobile apps, and greater connectivity in drones, robots, and machine-to-machine products. Apparently, 5G can also download movies in a matter of seconds and can be instrumental in bringing concepts like autonomous cars to life.

Huawei hit in the US and uncertain in India 5G trials

Tensions between the US and China have been on the rise ever since the Trump administration initiated a hike in tariffs.

In May, US President Donald Trump announced that $200 billion worth of Chinese goods would be taxed at 25%—over half the original rate. Trump expressed his frustration at China’s trade surplus with the US and at trade talks between the two countries moving at a slow pace.

Trump also placed Huawei, a Chinese telecom company, and its affiliates on the “Entity List” that requires certain companies to require special licenses for exports.

The US Department of Commerce explains that the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) publishes a list of foreign businesses and institutions that are subject to additional license requirements if they are to conduct business in the US.

As Huawei is dependent on US suppliers for parts like chips, Trump’s decision is a blow to business. Vox reports that Trump has even accused Huawei of spying on the US for China, but the company denies those allegations.

The restrictions on Huawei will likely impact the introduction of 5G in the US because Huawei makes affordable telecom equipment that is widely used.

However, in light of the US’ stance towards the company, India’s new IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad is still unsure about whether or not Huawei will participate in the 5G trials.

“Participation of 5G is not condition on the trial being stated. Whether a company is allowed to participate or not is a complex questions, including security issues”, he said, according to India Today.

Huawei said that India’s telecom department has been amicably interacting with the company for the past few months and should decide on its participation in the trials independent of the US.

Huawei India CEO Jay Chen said, “It is a right time for the telecom department to make the decision after almost 6-8 months of close engagement, and are quite happy and positive about the engagement.”

The Economic Times says that because India’s IT ministry is divided on Huawei’s involvement in 5G trials, it has formed an inter-ministerial committee to make a recommendation.

NDA plans greater connectivity for india

In February 2009, BSNL launched 3G (third generation) services in India in 12 cities. Then IT minister A Raja spearheaded the launch from Chennai.

“Considering the need for faster penetration of 3G, and the need for telecom access to rural areas, thr Government policy will allow telecom infrastructure sharing between commercial telcos as well as infrastructure providers”, said Raja while launching 3G across India.

BSNL had also partnered with Nokia, Sony and Samsung for the 3G launch on mobile and with Micromax and Huawei for laptop data cards.

After in 2012, Airtel launched India’s first 4G (fourth generation) network that was to be five times faster than 3G and supported HD streaming. Then IT minister Kapil Sibal launched 4G from Kolkata.

BBC says that India was one of the first countries to start 4G services, only a few years after 3G networks were launched. However, the 2G scam that Raja was the focus of rocked the country’s IT sector and made 3G a not-so-profitable endeavor.

However, India’s digital revolution seems to be a top priority for the new government. After being re-elected in a landslide win, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has begun chalking out a 1,000 day plan for India where IT advances take centre stage.

He has reportedly directed officials to create this three-year agenda that the newly appointed cabinet ministers will need to implement.

The NDA’s plan is working to propel Indian software and tech startups globally through the National Policy on Software Products. The government also wants to boost employment in technology sectors by creating a common pool of IT professionals and students hoping for work opportunities.

The NDA plans to monitor these initiatives and other research and development programmes through the National Software Products Mission. Officials drawing up the 1,000 day plan said that Modi also wants to see Chandrayaan-2, India’s first manned space mission, to a successful end, and install five lakh WiFi hotspots for consumers to use.

Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius