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6 October 2020

China expected to mount antitrust probe into Google Android

By Wireless Watch Staff

Chinese authorities have launched a probe into whether the dominance of Google’s Android mobile operating system is anti-competitive. According to sources, the investigation was sparked by Huawei, which has been denied access to Google’s suite of Android-based services since the USA placed the Chinese vendor on its ‘entity list’. That has forced Huawei to develop is own mobile OS, called Harmony.

The case was first proposed by Huawei last year and has now been passed on to the State Council’s antitrust committee. A decision on whether to move on to a formal procedure is expected soon, though it may be a bargaining chip in ongoing disputes between the USA and China over cybersecurity, trade, 5G and sanctions against Huawei.

China is likely to draw heavily, in any investigation, on precedents elsewhere, such as the EU’s 2018 fine of €4.3bn, imposed for anti-competitive practices such as forcing handset makers to pre-install Google apps.

Other Chinese phonemakers have been urged by Huawei and the government to support Harmony out of national solidarity, but in international markets, will be unwilling to sacrifice the benefits of supporting Android and its huge applications base, so companies like Xiaomi and Oppo may be looking ambivalently at the expected probe.

India is also investigating Google for allegedly abusing its market position. The country is expected to develop its own apps marketplace as an alternative to Google Play Store and Apple App Store, as part of its national push for greater hi-tech self-sufficiency.

It wants to accelerate uptake of 4G and future 5G services by offering a marketplace without the 30% fees that Google and Apple charge developers. According to local media reports, it is also considering mandating installation of the new app store on Android handsets, which account for 97% of the installed base in India – a market where Apple has failed to make the same kind of headway it has in other regions.

The Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) has been tasked with producing the Indian store, said the reports.