With fears over network security ever-present, Vodafone Idea (now Vi) is reportedly in discussions with Nokia to replace the Huawei 4G radio equipment currently in its network

Back in 2020, buoyed by an international campaign led by then-President Donald Trump, numerous countries around the began to ban Huawei from their telecoms networks to various degrees, citing national security fears. Countries adopting this hard-line approach include the US, UK, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, most of which have plans to phase out any existing Huawei equipment from their networks over the next decade. 

Far more countries, however, have decided to take a more indirect route to tackling the issue of untrusted vendors, with most countries rejecting outright bans on companies like Huawei and ZTE in favour of increased regulation.

India too falls into this category. In summer last year, India’s Ministry of Communications gave permission for telcos to begin running 5G trials with a select list of vendors from which Huawei and ZTE were notably absent. This is tied to new procurement rules introduced for the sector last year, which limits the equipment operators may deploy to that approved by a specially appointed National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC). 

Though not quite the infamous US Entity list, which bans all equipment from listed vendors, this measure is nonetheless close to operating as a de facto ban for Chinese equipment suppliers in India. 

India is planning its first 5G auction to take place later this year.

Now, reports suggest that Vodafone Idea is in discussions with Finnish vendor Nokia to replace the company’s existing Huawei 4G RAN equipment.

According to a report from Reuters, the deal will see Nokia deploy 12,000 5G-ready radio sites and 4,000 small cells in Delhi.

Operators in other markets around the world, such as BT in the UK and Orange in Belgium, have conducted similar swaps of Huawei equipment for Nokia’s in recent years. 

The replacement process for Vodafone Idea could reportedly start next month. 

Huawei has continuously denied that it represents a security risk, saying that it is complying with all relevant regulations surrounding telecoms security. In some countries, like Sweden and Estonia, the Chinese vendor has event launched legal challenges against their exclusion from national networks, claiming that they are being discriminated against on the basis of their country of origin. 

Huawei also supplies equipment to Vodafone Idea’s rival Bharti Airtel, alongside Ericsson. Airtel has not yet announced if it will look to swap out Huawei from its own networks.

India’s largest telco, Reliance Jio, does not use Huawei equipment in its networks. 

In related news, Vodafone Idea earlier this year converted all of the debt it owes the Indian government into equity, equating to a roughly 35.8% stake.


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