“I am not sure technology from European companies has lesser security problems, than say, a Huawei,” Paulraj told ET, when asked about global network security concerns, including in India, in the wake of 5G trials and subsequent rollouts.
Huawei is competing with Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson, besides smaller Chinese rival ZTE, for 5G network deals in India. Ericsson and Nokia also manufacture parts in China but both say they have tight controls and security protocols in place.
Paulraj’s comments are significant given that he is working with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to prepare a roadmap for India’s venture into 5G technology in tandem with mature markets worldwide.
The Indian government has recently said there was no proposal to ban telecom equipment manufactured by Huawei, which has been allowed to participate in 5G trials being planned with mobile phone companies.
Huawei has been facing increasing scrutiny in several markets for its alleged links to the Chinese government, which, some countries fear, use the company’s devices for cyber-spying. Some countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have already barred the company’s equipment being used for their 5G networks, while others such as Poland and the UK are evaluating restrictions as well. Huawei, on its part, has denied all charges of any wrong doing.
“Our (Indian) problem is that we don’t have technology ourselves. Till we don’t have our own technology, nothing is secure. That’s a big problem,” said Paulraj, a Padma Bhushan awardee scientist.
Nokia and Ericsson said their equipment are totally secure. “Nokia regularly reviews the robustness of its products to ensure they meet our high security standards. We stand behind the quality and security of our products, regardless of where they are made,” a company spokesperson said.
Following the acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent in 2016, Nokia has expanded its footprint in China through the Nokia Shanghai Bell (NSB) joint venture which officially started operations in mid-2017.
“Nokia controls the Chinese JV and decisions regarding its governance are run through the same human rights, due diligence and legal and compliance processes as the company’s other business units worldwide,” the company elaborated.
Ericsson also said that its solutions met the requirements defined by customers and local authorities before being deployed in a network.
“Ericsson has a structured and robust process to ensure security when we develop software and hardware. It is a central part of our development process,” the company’s spokeswoman said, adding that it had procedures in place to secure the integrity of hardware and software, including signing and code reviews.