Amid restrictions imposed on Chinese tech majors to operate in the Indian market, Bharti Airtel announced it had joined Chinese major Huawei as a partner to deploy a Rs 300 crore telecommunications infrastructure expansion contract.
According to a report in ETTelecom, the telecommunications major has already reached an agreement with the supplier and even issued a purchase order (PO) to Huawei.
The deal is part of Airtel’s plan to expand its national long distance network (NLD) currently managed by Huawei. The NLD optical transport network is considered crucial because it carries inter-ring and international traffic and helps manage network capacity. It also carries internet traffic and traffic from major landing stations.
Meanwhile, faced with global restrictions, the contract came as a respite for the Chinese company which is facing an existential crisis in India following the deterioration of relations between India and China in recent times. Following restrictions imposed by the US government on the Chinese major’s 5G deployment, the Indian government has also implemented a strict due diligence process for the company’s projects.
The company also faces global isolation for its 5G network deployments over allegations of its involvement in cyber espionage on behalf of the Chinese state. Huawei has denied any wrongdoing.
Following strict new compliance rules from the Indian government, Huawei has also lost contracts with Bharti Airtel in the past 15-18 months. Airtel replaced Huawei with European suppliers in two circles. The latest deal was cleared after Airtel launched a request for proposal (RFP) with other vendors, including Nokia, Ciena and Infinera, for the NLD network.
The deal brings many surprises as, in recent times, the Indian government is preparing a list of trusted sources under the National Security Directive for the procurement of equipment for telecommunications networks.
Experts say the move is likely to push Chinese OEMs Huawei and ZTE away from 5G deployments in India. This is in line with the United States and the United Kingdom who have taken steps to prevent them from accessing critical infrastructure.