Huawei Offers 5G Services to Combat Coronavirus in India, Ahead of New Delhi’s Impending 5G Trials

On March 27, Indian media reported that Huawei has offered the Indian government 5G technology initially used in China’s Hubei province to monitor and curtail the spread of the coronavirus. Huawei’s 5G network was reportedly used to deploy technical solutions in Hubei that helped to provide telemedicine services to citizens, which are tools it is now offering to New Delhi. As in the case with Hubei, Huawei is offering India capabilities for remote temperature monitoring, diagnosis, collaboration, and treatment – all reportedly through Huawei 5G networks.

The Indian Department of Telecommunications (DoT) was expected to begin 5G trials in India this month, however, the effort has been delayed due to India’s ongoing 21-day lockdown to curb the virus’ spread.  Some have interpreted remarks made by India’s DoT Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, in January 2020, as a greenlight for Huawei’s participation in India’s 5G trials, despite warnings from the United States.  Prasad reportedly stated,“5G trials will be done with all vendors and operators…”

Prasad’s remarks appear to be a reversal of the DoT’s 2018 announcement that Chinese telecommunications operators, Huawei and ZTE, will be excluded in the 5G trials.  At the time, the announcement was characterized as a security-minded decision by New Delhi to limit the country’s exposure to Chinese telecom equipment makers. It remains unclear what might have prompted the change in decision, however, some local observers speculate that it still remains unlikely that Huawei will ultimately win the contract. 

Meanwhile, China continues COVID-19 outreach to India and other Asian countries. China’s state-run Global Times indicated the willingness of Chinese companies (such as China Railway Construction Corporation) to construct makeshift hospitals in India upon New Delhi’s requests for the assistance.  Meanwhile, the Jack Ma Foundation and the Alibaba Foundation announced the donation of essential medical supplies to India, as well as other Central and South Asian countries.