Published: Thu, November 29, 2018
Electronics | By Kelly Massey

New Zealand bans Huawei 5G equipment due to 'national security' fears

New Zealand bans Huawei 5G equipment due to 'national security' fears

Yesterday afternoon, Spark pre-empted the government and GCSB by announcing the security agency's finding, and saying it could not now use Huawei gear for its pending 5G upgrade to its mobile network.

"There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by Huawei presented and we strongly reject the notion that our business threatens New Zealand in any way".

GCSB director-general Andrew Hampton effectively confirmed a statement by Spark on Wednesday that it had declined a proposal by Spark to use Huawei equipment in a 5G mobile network that Spark aims to have in operation in 2020. "We deserve the opportunity to have our voice heard and to address any concerns in good faith".

His comments followed Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang saying the Chinese government hopes New Zealand "provides a fair competition environment for Chinese companies operating in New Zealand, and does more to benefit bilateral mutual trust and cooperation".

Intelligence services minister Andrew Little told Reuters that Spark - whose request was part of the country's first 5G application - could work with the agency to mitigate risk.

"It's not about the country, it's not even particularly about the company; it is about the technology that is proposed".

The Huawei spokesperson added that the Chinese tech giant's equipment "is already being deployed by major carriers around the world", after having signed 22 commercial 5G contracts. "Following our review, Spark will consider what further steps, if any, it will take".

Spark was on Thursday still awaiting a full debriefing from the GCSB.

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Huawei has repeatedly denied engaging in intelligence work for any government and is seeking an urgent meeting with the government.

U.S. lawmakers have expressed concerns about Huawei's potential for espionage and The Wall Street Journal reported last week that Washington was urging its allies to exclude it from 5G roll-outs.

Huawei has been involved in other telecommunications systems in New Zealand such as its 4G mobile network, and is investing NZ$400 million into research and development.

Little said each decision regarding telecom technology was made separately under telecom and security legislation.

Spark said it had wanted to use Huawei 5G equipment in its planned Radio Access Network, which involves technology associated with cell tower infrastructure.

Mr Little and intelligence officials have said that 5G networks have different security concerns to previous generations of mobile networks because it was hard to restrict vendors considered high risk to less sensitive parts of the network.

Under New Zealand law telecoms companies must inform security services of certain changes to their networks.

In a response, Huawei said that it "poses no greater cyber security risk than any ICT vendor".

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