New Zealand rejects Huawei’s 5G bid over national security concerns

New Zealand rejects Huawei’s 5G bid over national security concerns

New Zealand’s intelligence agency has rejected a request from telecommunications services provider Spark to use 5G equipment from Chinese technology company Huawei, due to national security concerns.

The director-general of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) informed Spark that he considers the proposal to use Huawei 5G equipment in the company’s planned 5G Radio Access Network (RAN) would, if implemented, “raise significant national security risks”.

Under the Telecommunications Interception Capability and Security Act (TICSA), this means Spark cannot implement its proposal to use Huawei RAN equipment in its planned 5G network.

In an online statement announcing the rejection, Spark said:

“Spark has not yet had an opportunity to review the detailed reasoning behind the Director-General’s decision. Following our review, Spark will consider what further steps, if any, it will take.”

Huawei shown the highway

The decision follows a similar move by Australia in August. The country also banned Huawei from bidding on projects for its broadband network in 2012.

Just last week, the Wall Street Journal reported the US government is trying to persuade companies in allied countries to avoid using Huawei technology, due to security fears relating to snooping and interference – something the Chinese company denies.

Huawei has promised to “actively address” any concerns and emphasised that it had signed more than 20 5G contracts with network carriers around the world.

According to The New York Times, the US Embassy in Australia released a statement earlier today saying:

The US advocates for secure telecoms networks and supply chains that are free from suppliers subject to foreign government control or undue influence.

“We routinely urge allies and friends to consider such risks and exercise similar vigilance in ensuring the security of their own telecoms networks and supply chains.”

Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang has been quoted by Reuters as expressing “serious concern” and advocated China and New Zealand’s mutually beneficial business ties.

“We hope the New Zealand government provides a fair competition environment for Chinese companies operating in New Zealand, and does more to benefit bilateral mutual trust and cooperation,” he told a daily news briefing.

Internet of Business says

There is no doubt about Huawei’s ability to produce capable technology at very competitive prices. It showed off what it claimed was the first ever 5G chip earlier this year.

However, growing fears about the Chinese government’s influence over the company has seriously damaged its ability to sign contracts with developed western powers in recent weeks.

New Zealand’s relative proximity to China is likely making its security service more cautious. Recent warnings out of Washington will also have given them pause.

In April this year, US regulators announced that they would ban resident companies from buying from any supplier deemed to be a national security threat. This included the likes of China Mobile, Huawei, and ZTE, though ZTE subsequently received a temporary reprieve.

In the UK, the latest annual report from the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre (HCSEC) Oversight Board has warned the UK’s national security advisor that it can offer “only limited assurance” that the widespread use of Huawei broadband and mobile infrastructure hardware poses no national security risks.

The report highlighted a “lack of progress” in remedying issues identified in past versions, and shortcomings in Huawei’s internal practices.

Regardless of the validity of the security fears surrounding Huawei, providing proof of the company’s independence from the Chinese government is a tall order.

Meanwhile, developing nations will continue to partner with Huawei, prioritising the affordable connectivity the company can provide, over and above security concerns that pose a greater risk to China’s traditional ideological opponents.