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European Union looks to align with India on 5G to 'distance' telecom infrastructure from Chinese companies

Europe wants to work with democratic partners including India to establish open and transparent standards as nations prepare to move to the new security protocol that should be part of every 5G value chain
European Union flags flutter outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.(Reuters)
Published on Apr 19, 2021 02:31 PM IST
Bloomberg |

The European Union (EU) will discuss 5G technology rollouts and the establishment of global security standards when leaders meet with India next month, as concerns grow about the dominance of Chinese telecom giants.

Europe wants to work with democratic partners including India to establish open and transparent standards as nations prepare to move to the new security protocol that should be part of every 5G value chain, Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief said in an interview.

“When we have a systemic rivalry, then we must come together to protect what is really important,” Vestager said. “The way tech is used is a reflection of the system that we prefer, which is democracy.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to attend the India-EU summit in Portugal on May 8 to meet leaders from the 27-member bloc of nations for discussions on trade and security issues. The EU is India’s largest trading partner.

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India and many European countries, along with the US, have sought to distance their next generation telecom infrastructure from companies including Huawei Technologies Co. and ZTE Corp. amid concerns over their links with the Chinese government.

Nations including the US, UK, Australia and India have raised red flags about Chinese majors participating in building the networks. Chinese suppliers have been shut out of recent telecom auctions in India. While the US and Japan have announced their intention to invest in 5G research, the UK plans to build an alliance of democracies for safer adoption of the technology that’s expected to spur growth post-pandemic and add $1.3 trillion to the global economy by 2030.

There’s renewed focus on building common standards to ensure security across the 5G value chain, Vestager said. Standards would include agreeing on technical aspects like radio spectrum bands and interface technologies to be used by 5G networks and creating level-playing fields for local and smaller companies.

“It has been part of discussions we have had so far,” she said. “And I would hope that this would be a common approach. Standard setting is one of the keys for a level playing field and for speed when it comes to digitalization.”

The EU needs to invest $355 billion while India would need to invest over $70 billion to build its 5G network, according to the government.

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