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Huawei block has ‘minimal’ impact

Monday December 03, 2018 Written by Published in Technology

New Zealand’s decision to block a proposal to use telecommunications equipment made by China’s Huawei because of national security concerns will have little impact on the Cook Islands, says Bluesky country manager Phillip Henderson.


The embargo only applies to Huawei as a vendor in future 5G mobile networks in New Zealand, he says.

“As it is understood”, it also only applies to the core part of the network and allows Huawei to provide the 5G Radio Access Network, adds Henderson.

“The block does not require telecommunications companies to swap out existing Huawei equipment that they have already deployed in their 2G, 3G or 4G networks.”

Henderson says all three New Zealand telecommunications companies currently use Huawei in their mobile networks, as does Bluesky Cook Islands.

“(But) as 5G remains a few years away for the Cooks, this currently has minimal impact.” Depending on how the issue develops over the next few months, it may become a factor in Bluesky’s vendor choice for the next wave of mobile technology, adds Henderson.

“There are a number of vendors that can deliver on our requirements.”

Spark New Zealand wanted to use Huawei equipment in its 5G mobile network.

However, a New Zealand government security agency said last week the deal would bring significant risks to national security.

A BBC story said the move was part of a growing push against the involvement of Chinese technology firms on security grounds.

“5G networks are being built in several countries and will form the next significant wave of mobile infrastructure.

“Huawei, the world's biggest producer of telecoms equipment, has faced resistance from foreign governments over the risk that its technology could be used for espionage.

“The head of New Zealand’s government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) told Spark the proposal ‘would, if implemented, raise significant national security risks’,” the company said.

The story said Intelligence services minister Andrew Little had said Spark could work with the agency to reduce that risk.

“As the GCSB has noted, this is an ongoing process. We will actively address any concerns and work together to find a way forward,” Huawei said in a statement.

The move follows a decision by Australia to block Huawei and Chinese firm ZTE from providing 5G technology for the country’s wireless networks on national security grounds.

The US and UK have raised concerns with Huawei, and the firm has been scrutinised in Germany, Japan and Korea.

However Papua New Guinea said last week it would go ahead with an agreement for Huawei to build its internet infrastructure.

Tom Uren, visiting fellow in the International Cyber Policy Centre at Australia's Strategic Policy Institute, said the Chinese government had “clearly demonstrated intent over many years to steal information”.

“The Chinese state has engaged in a lot of cyber and other espionage and intellectual property theft," he said.

Links between firms and the government have fuelled concerns that China may attempt to “leverage state-linked companies to be able to enable their espionage operations”, Uren said.

Those concerns were exacerbated by new laws introduced last year that required Chinese organisations assist in national intelligence efforts.

The laws enable the Chinese state to compel people and possibly companies to assist if they needed it, Uren said.

The combination of new rules and a history of espionage have increased the perceived danger of using companies like Huawei and ZTE in critical national infrastructure.

“It’s hard to argue that they don't represent an elevated risk,” Uren added.

                                 - Cameron Scott/NYT

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