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Indian backlash against China spells opportunity for homegrown vendors

Border tension between China and India has cast uncertainty over the role of China's Huawei and ZTE in India's telecom market.

That could represent an opportunity for homegrown Indian firms.

"As a result of the recent events, we have seen an increased interest from the telcos to diversify their supply chain risks," said Sanjay Nayak, the CEO of Tejas Networks, a prominent Indian gear maker. "We are seeing significant growth opportunities in the FTTx [fiber-to-the-something] market as well as metro capacity expansions."

Indian companies including Sterlite Technologies, Vihaan Networks, VVDN and HFCL could also gain from the recent events.

The government has already responded with a ban on the use of Chinese equipment by state-run telcos BSNL and MTNL.

India has also banned 59 Chinese apps, including TikTok, Shareit and WeChat, and ordered mandatory testing of all telecom gear starting in October.

Through its Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, the government wants India to be self-reliant, boosting domestic players.

"The government is also keen to procure more of their requirements from domestic sources, and we are looking to expand our product offerings as well," said Nayak.

The growing importance of software in networks is also aiding Indian vendors. "The increasing trend of software differentiation in networking products, including 5G, is a sweet spot for India, which is well known for its world-class software skills," said Nayak.

Despite the opportunity, Indian telcos need to prove they have the wherewithal to meet growing telco demands. There are still few Indian suppliers of note.

Building telecom products will also call for huge R&D investments and be extremely time consuming.


Want to know more about 5G? Check out our dedicated 5G content channel here on Light Reading.


"It is common knowledge that a significant part of the world's telecom products is anyway being developed in India, as a part of R&D centers of global players," said Nayak. "We have a large number of high-quality and experienced R&D engineers, who are experienced in complex system design, advanced software as well as fabless chip designs."

"Indian start-ups can scale up and leverage the economies of scale of the large Indian market and then expand globally," he said.

Technically, there is nothing to stop private-sector companies from giving new business to Chinese gear makers Huawei and ZTE. But there has been a recent shift of opinion against anything Chinese. Spokespeople for Jio, India's biggest operator, have been keen to point out they have no Chinese components in their network.

The development is sure to benefit other vendors, including Ericsson and Nokia, at the expense of the Chinese.

It could also lead to opportunities for companies from other markets, including Japan's NEC, South Korea's Samsung and US-based Cisco.

All three were recently invited by India's government to participate in 5G trials, along with Sweden's Ericsson and Finland's Nokia, while Samsung is already working with Jio.

— Gagandeep Kaur, Contributing Editor, special to Light Reading

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