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'Made in India' gets a shot in the arm with HFCL deal

HFCL has received an order for 5G kit from an unnamed Indian telecoms operator, thereby breathing some life into the country's domestic production initiative.

Mary Lennighan

January 23, 2024

2 Min Read

The Indian telecoms equipment maker said it has brought in an order worth 6.23 billion rupees (US$75 million) for, in its own words, "the supply of indigenously manufactured 5G networking equipment."

That's not an enormous sum of money in the broader telecoms context, but it's not insignificant either. And, more importantly, it is the biggest of its kind, placed by any telecom service provider with an Indian manufacturer.

We don't know the identity of the telco that placed the order, but we do know that it was an affiliate of an Indian telecoms service provider.

Market leader Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel have rolled out 5G pretty rapidly in India. They launched their first services in October 2022 and are heading towards nationwide coverage. To date, both have used non-Indian equipment, despite the fact that Reliance's Jio Platforms is touting an India-made 5G system to overseas telcos.

At the other end of the scale, cash-strapped Vodafone Idea, or Vi, currently lacks the funds to push on with 5G, having introduced a couple of trial services last year. And state-owned BSNL is focusing on 4G for now with plans to upgrade to 5G next year.

As a government-backed player, BSNL is directed to procure domestic equipment and as such has inked a deal with a Tata Consultancy Services-led consortium for its 4G rollout. Earlier this month HFCL revealed it has received an advance purchase order worth INR11.27 billion (US$135 million) from BSNL for the deployment of an optical transport network. The telco is clearly doing its bit for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'made in India' cause.

As is HFCL.

"This strategic win is a testament to HFCL's vision of designing and manufacturing high technology telecom equipment in India," the vendor said, in a statement.

Incidentally, late last year HFCL announced it had become the first Indian kit maker to introduce a domestically designed and built CPE portfolio for 5G fixed wireless access (FWA). The timing of that announcement coincided with a big push from Reliance Jio on its 5G FWA JioAirFiber service, which is gaining significant traction in India.

However, this latest announcement from HFCL is very much about networking.

The vendor noted that it has been investing in building an end-to-end portfolio of 5G networking equipment to address telecoms operators' access, transport and last-mile networking requirements. It also shared stats from Future Market Insights that put the value of the global 5G last-mile equipment market at $68 billion by 2030.

HFCL undoubtedly wants a piece of that global 5G action.

"Our recent order wins are clearly a testament that our strategy of moving from projects to margin accretive products, launching new products, reaching out to new customers and new geographies is

paying off well and will bolster our position even further in 2024," said HFCL's managing director Mahendra Nahata.

Given the influx of recent announcements from HFCL, it's safe to assume we will hear more from the vendor on domestically-developed 5G kit over the coming year.

About the Author(s)

Mary Lennighan

Mary has been following developments in the telecoms industry for more than 20 years. She is currently a freelance journalist, having stepped down as editor of Total Telecom in late 2017; her career history also includes three years at CIT Publications (now part of Telegeography) and a stint at Reuters. Mary's key area of focus is on the business of telecoms, looking at operator strategy and financial performance, as well as regulatory developments, spectrum allocation and the like. She holds a Bachelor's degree in modern languages and an MA in Italian language and literature.

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