New Delhi: Chinese telecom gear maker Huawei Monday said it is ready to sign “no back door” agreement with the Indian government to discourage espionage, and other companies should also follow suit. Huawei’s business engagement in India is under scrutiny by the government after the US restricted hardware as well as software supplies to it. “We are proposing to the Indian government that we are ready to sign ‘no back door’ agreement. We encourage other OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) also to sign this kind of agreement with the government and telecom operators,” Huawei India Chief Executive Officer Jay Chen told.
“Back door” in technology products refers to arrangement with government or with any third party to share customers’ data in an unauthorised manner with mala fide intention. The telecom department had come up with security guidelines in 2011 that mandated telecom operators to install certified equipment and devices in their network to ensure they are free from malicious softwares or bug. It proposed hefty penalties on telecom companies for failing to ensure compliance to the law. However, the government is yet to set up labs to examine security issues in telecom gears and products.
The US government has alleged that law in China warrants its companies to share data with country’s intelligence for national security. Chen said that Huawei has conducted research on Chinese law on its own and with the help of big legal firms based in the US, UK and Australia. “They did some comparison. The Chinese intelligence law says that citizens and companies are supposed to cooperate if there is some national security threat but they never asked to share data or cooperate for state spying. Similar laws exist in the US, UK, Australia and India too,” Chen said. Huawei at present has most of its equipment installed in the network of Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.
“The previous security guidelines issued in 2011 was limited up to 4G networks. Now, it should be upgraded for 5G networks as well,” Chen said. Huawei has teamed up with Vodafone Idea in India to conduct trials for the 5G services but is yet to receive approval for the same. “We want a level playing field. I firmly believe that the Indian government will allocate spectrum for trials to everyone at one go and not differentiate based on vendors. India can’t afford to work with select vendors for another 10 years when it is aspiring to become the third largest economy of the world,” Chen said. Telecom and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said that India’s digital economy is likely to hit USD 1 trillion in next 4-5 years.
According to Swedish telecom gear maker Ericsson, 5G mobile services are expected to create an over USD 27 billion business opportunity for India by 2026, while Huawei has estimated India to be the largest 5G market after China in the coming 10 years. Chen said that Huawei is ready to further invest in India, work with Indian startups to develop solutions for the world, set up labs, work on skill development after it gets positive reply from India on its engagement. “European vendors say that their prices will remain competitive to Huawei because we are present in India,” Chen said. He also said the US ban on hardware and software supplies has not adversely impacted the company’s operations and it has already started sourcing components from non-US countries.
“Many European companies have come forward because it is a business opportunity for them. After the US ban, our employees across board have started working at a very high efficiency level. The spirit is now very high. They are working on alternatives,” Chen said. When asked about Huawei plan around its operating system Hongmeng for smartphones, Chen said it is an alternative but the company will prefer to work with Google’s Android ecosystem. “An open source Android ecosystem will remain our first choice. If possible, we will continue to prioritize using Android.
Technically, developing an OS is not difficult, the difficult part is the ecosystem. Apple and Google have done very well in building their ecosystem. In the past, we have always supported the ecosystems of Apple, Google, and Microsoft. Huawei’s own OS is a backup plan. If we have no other choice, we have to find a way to survive,” Chen said.