New Zealand Rejects Huawei’s 5G Proposal Due to National Security Concerns

Huawei was banned from supplying 5G technology in New Zealand due to national security concerns, joining a number of developed countries in their hesitation to collaborate with the Chinese telecommunications equipment maker.

Spark New Zealand, one of the country’s largest telecommunications companies, proposed to use Huawei’s 5G technology, but was rejected after New Zealand intelligence agencies said the move would trigger “significant national security risks.” This is the most recent indication that Western countries are increasingly uneasy about the connection between Huawei and the Chinese government.

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“While we are disappointed with this decision, we are confident that the decision will not affect our plans to launch Spark’s 5G network by 1 July 2020, subject to the necessary spectrum being made available by the New Zealand Government.” Spark said in a statement on Nov. 28.

The maneuver follows a similar decision by the neighboring country Australia in August to ban Huawei from a 5G network roll-out. The brand has also been subject to close scrutiny by Japan, Korea, and Germany.

Earlier this month, British officials advised telecom companies to carefully consider the choice of supplier when building 5G networks, a warning that was seemingly aimed at Huawei. In addition, the US have expressed their concerns about Huawei’s ties to the Chinese government and that it could make their products vulnerable to interference.

Huawei has since renounced the claims of potential espionage and denied having contact with the Chinese Communist Party.

But Andrew Little, minister for the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), claims that it’s not the ties to China that are causing the apprehension.

“It’s not about the country, it’s not even particularly about the company, it’s about the technology that is proposed,” Little told national radio.

“We know that telecommunications networks, like other infrastructure, are now points of vulnerability worldwide for incursion, cyber attacks and what have you […] So in this day and age, we’ve got to make sure everything is done to protect our country from those risks.”

5G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices than ever before. The speedy network is essential for the development of new technologies such as self-driving cars and remote surgical procedures.

Little insisted that Huawei did not face an unequivocal ban and that Spark had the option of approaching the GCSB to see if there were ways to reduce security risks.

Despite words of caution from the west, there is still one country standing by Huawei – Papua New Guinea has turned down offers from Western countries and will uphold its agreement with Huawei letting the Chinese brand set up the country’s internet infrastructure. The Pacific nation has seen a surge in investment from China over the past decade.

Featured photo credit to FT