New Delhi: Accusations of spying for China, an intensifying global US-led movement against its business, the Narendra Modi government’s initial reservations and protests in India — none of these factors seem to faze Huawei as it continues to push its 5G technology in the country.
In the latest bid to establish itself ahead of India’s 5G trials, and to find collaborators, the Chinese telecom equipment maker is using the Covid-19 pandemic to demonstrate how its 5G tech can be useful in the healthcare sector.
Last month, Huawei held a webinar to “reveal”, for the “first time ever”, how its technology was used to fight the pandemic. The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), the Indian industry body representing telecom service providers, organised the webinar.
It showcased how Huawei partnered telecom service providers, medical device and application providers in China to create 5G-enabled solutions in healthcare like telemedicine consultation, AI-powered image scanning, and operating mobile trolley that can send food to patients without human contact.
Asked after the webinar if the company’s looking to find partners in other countries including India, Huawei told ThePrint that it is “always open to collaboration in every market we operate”.
COAI director general Rajan Mathews said there has been interest from medical application developers who attended the webinar. Many participants asked for a copy of the 22 May presentation, he said.
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5G solutions for Covid
In response to an email questionnaire about its presentation, Huawei detailed the tech’s first use of 5G to battle Covid-19 in Wuhan, the first coronavirus epicentre in the world. The network it set up with other telecom players was used to expedite construction and patient treatment at a temporary hospital built within 10 days exclusively to deal with Covid patients.
The hospital is located in a remote area in Wuhan where 4G mobile communication signal wasn’t strong enough to cater to the multitude of construction workers, doctors and patients.
A Deloitte-Huawei white paper published this year said the 5G service was up and running in 72 hours. After the hospital became operational, the network was used for telemedicine consultation between the hospital and medical experts in Beijing, over a 1,000 km from Wuhan, among others.
“5G has advantages over 4G in speed, latency, number of connection points and range making it more adaptable. These features can address data transmission challenges during an epidemic, as well as open up possibilities for fresh ideas and new treatment methods,” said the paper.
Huawei’s focus on 5G network healthcare applications is due to its potential to make big bucks for the telecom industry. According to its rival Ericsson’s estimates, there is a $76 billion revenue opportunity in 2026 for operators addressing healthcare transformation with 5G.
India focus amid uncertainties
Huawei’s promotional attempt comes in the middle of a strong anti-China sentiment globally, with the Covid-19 pandemic wreaking havoc across the world. The virus is alleged to have originated in China. President Xi Jinping’s government is also facing allegations of delaying data sharing with the World Health Organization (WHO).
In India, there are calls for boycott of Chinese products, with even the government now focusing on a self-reliant economy.
These developments are over and above the security concerns over Huawei’s participation in India’s upcoming 5G trials flagged by many, including the Army, retired civil servants, analysts and RSS affiliates.
In December 2019, the Modi government had allowed Huawei despite pressure from the US to not do so.
The US is leading a global movement against Huawei on security concerns. On 15 May, the Donald Trump administration issued orders to restrict Huawei access to semiconductors made using American technology and software even when the semiconductors are made outside the US, like in Taiwan.
Last week, the UK said it wants an alliance of 10 democracies to create an alternative pool of 5G equipment and technologies, looking to avoid reliance on Huawei.
India is expected to roll out commercial 5G tech by the end of this year.
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