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India should remove Chinese firms Huawei, ZTE from 5G & other ICT networks, US official says

Greg Kalbaugh, an official under the US Department of Commerce, says vendors from China cannot be trusted as they 'are subject to the control of their government'.

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New Delhi: A official in the Donald Trump administration has sought to push India to remove Chinese firms Huawei and ZTE from India’s upcoming 5G trials and other Information and Communication Technology (ICT) networks as the US and India explore ways to improve commercial ties in the sector.

“I would encourage the Government of India to review the risk to India’s communications networks to undertake appropriate measures to remove and exclude equipment from Huawei, ZTE, and other untrusted vendors from India’s 5G networks and broader ICT infrastructure,” said Greg Kalbaugh. He is the deputy under secretary for policy at the International Trade Administration, an agency functioning under the US Department of Commerce.

Amid border tensions with Beijing, India is reportedly planning to shut out both Huawei and ZTE from the 5G trials.

Speaking at an online event organised by the US India Business Council (USIBC), an advocacy group,  Thursday, Kalbaugh said vendors from China cannot be trusted since they must comply with their government.

“As India, the United States and many other countries have already experienced, utilising technologies from untrusted vendors that are subject to the control of the government of China is an unacceptable risk,” he said.

“China has used global communications networks to undertake aggressive economic espionage, to stifle free speech, to violate the privacy and personal data of our citizens, and disrupt the operations of other countries’ networks,” added the US official.

The USIBC event, titled Bridging the US-India 5G Gap, was focused on opportunities in the area where the two countries can form technology partnerships.

Kishore Babu, Deputy Director General, India’s telecom department, and Lt Gen S.P. Kochhar, Director General of telecom body Cellular Operators Association of India, were also part of the event, apart from private executives.

Also read: Why the US-China conflict over chips is about to get even uglier

Why network security is important

According to Kalbaugh, securing telecom networks from untrusted vendors is even more crucial in 5G networks as more and more data processing will happen on technology-driven networks, not just at the centralised level but also at the user device level.

In a 5G network, it becomes more challenging to identify a critical part of a network that needs to be more secured from cyberattacks as against non-critical parts that are less vulnerable.

“That’s why we see the need to ensure that the entire network is only touched by technology and services from trusted vendors. Maintaining the sovereignty of the country’s communications infrastructure and digital economy should be a paramount priority,” he said.

“Continuing to use equipment and devices from untrusted vendors such as Huawei and ZTE puts the network at extreme risk of being compromised by the Chinese government and associated threats,” Kalbaugh added.

He also outlined how American and Indian firms are working on telecom solutions that can become the “trusted vendors” for 5G compared to the “untrusted vendors”.

“Increased partnerships between the two countries can accelerate the development and commercialisation of technology solutions from trusted vendors for 5G networks, and the entire technology ecosystems. They can promote increased trade and commerce in ICT and digital services…” he said.

Also read: Ban Huawei’s 5G faster, British MPs ask Boris Johnson

How to improve India-US ties

Kalbaugh said the strengthening of the US-India economic ties is “especially important as the world confronts the predatory trade and business practices by the government of China”.

But to grow commercial ties in this sector, the US official said a few policy issues need to be ironed out.

“As the US and India explore ways to grow our commercial relationship and expand collaboration in the 5G ecosystem, I hope we can quickly resolve any policy and regulatory concerns that will constrain potential opportunities,” he said.

As signatories of the World Trade Organization’s IT agreement, “we must ensure that ICT goods receive duty free treatment as specified by our binding commitments under the agreement”, Kalbaugh said.

He also called for relaxed data localisation norms and free cross-border data flow as India considers stronger control.

“Data is the life blood for the global digital economy. As new commercial opportunities and business cases emerge thanks to the capabilities of 5G systems, it is critical that we avoid regulations restricting the flow of data or mandating data localisation. Such policies stifle innovation…” he said.

The US official said policies and requirements mandating localised production can become barriers to increased cooperation at a time when India is pushing for local manufacturing in electronics under campaigns like Make in India.

According to Kalbaugh, US-India trade of ICT goods and services amounted to over $20 billion in 2019 “so there’s significant opportunity to generate even more growth”.

Also read: It’s like ‘return to the Cold War’ as Five Eyes spy alliance trains focus on China


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  1. bulk of the world s electronics ships high tech machines pcs mobiles tablets sim cards etc are made in china. it is estimated that 65% of world products are made in china. it is impossible and foolish to ban huawei and zte and other chinese products. if they are banned who will replace them.

  2. Why our guys are taking so much time to ban thse Chines companies. These are main security thread to India it is foolish to wait on this after banning the apps for security.

  3. Usa dont have 5g companys.Is only Nokia and Ericsson from Scandinavia. Usacan only buy technology from them.

  4. Yeah and buy American products, right?
    No. Thanks.

    USA desparately wants India – China rivalry to feed America’s dying economy

  5. Prism prism on the wall, who is largest spying thieves in the world? Snowden knew the answer.

    Ask Germany Chancellor Merkel what it means by trust US on security esp telco & mobile network.

    Everyone knows US is largest spy nest of 11 Agencies with sporadic global reach. 5Eyes has no qualms to openly spy & scoop all global data for espionage and subversion. It even has a program called Echelon to conduct intense commercial espionage, including on all allies, putting Germany & France in dilemma.

    All US gadgets are known & caught numerous times to contain backdoor(e.g. Cisco equipments) & embedded spy unit(eg. Intel Chips) for CIA. NSA hacked every nations & corps to steal. Wikileaks had exposed NSA hacked & stole tonnes of Huawei technology & data, but unable to prove its wrong nor copy its complex 5G.

    When NSA unable to steal technologies or face competition, CIA will use every means to blackmail, including kidnapping top executives (France Alstom exec, Renault Carlos, ex-IMF chief, Toshiba, Huawei CFO…).

    It even hijacked planes MH370 that contained whole team of China & Msia nano-processors scientists with cutting edge samples, vanished by Honeywell patented drone control installed in all Boeing planes after 911 as safety features. A year later, US launched its own nanotechnology processors that have vast implications in medical, intelligence & military.

    If nothing work, it will simply demolish competitors, like using Diesel Gate on Volkswagen, super fine on Deutsche Bank, Credit Swiss, force Switzerland to release all bank customers details, …long list.

    Btw, US has no 5G technology, nor India can make one. Only China Huawei & ZTE, Ericsson & Nokia have real 5G solution, with Huawei holding all essential patents & complete proven end-to-end solutions.

    Not to use Huawei means India has to pay triple cost using multi 2nd class vendors with multi compatibility issues and low grade solution that will delay for years.

    Huawei tower solution is only a small light weight box that can hang anywhere, even to install under sewage manhole with its special corrosion resistance material. Its huge 200,000 global experts are unmatched in speed, service & expertise, vs Ericsson/Nokia 80,000 vs Samsung 5,000.

  6. True, but the replacements should be Indian indigenous tech. Encourage research and development. There are Indian technology groups that make Routers that are better than these imports. We just need 5G towers.

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