GCSB declines Spark's proposal to use Huawei 5G equipment

Yolanda Curtis
November 30, 2018

But it appears that Huawei would not be able to proceed with the launch of the 5G technology in New Zealand as the nation's worldwide spy agency has placed a ban on Spark from using Huawei's device in its 5G upgrade.

"The Director-General has informed Spark today that he considers Spark's proposal to use Huawei 5G equipment in Spark's planned 5G RAN would, if implemented, raise significant national security risks", Spark said.

Huawei has been involved in other telecommunications systems in New Zealand such as its 4G mobile network, and is investing NZ$400 million ($271.9 million) into research and development.

Its director-general, Andrew Hampton, in a statement said "a significant network security risk was identified" but would not comment further.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the USA government is trying to persuade wireless and internet providers in allied countries to avoid telecommunications equipment from China's Huawei Technologies.

The action follows a ban in Australia, where the Chinese telecommunications giant was blocked in August from rolling out Australia's 5G network due to security concerns.

"The economic and trade co-operation between China and New Zealand is mutually beneficial in nature", Geng said.

Spark said in a statement it would review the decision before deciding if further steps were needed and that, while disappointed, it was confident of meeting its 2020 network rollout target.

Chinese law requires organisations and citizens to support, assist and cooperate with intelligence work, which analysts say can make Huawei's equipment a conduit for espionage.

New Zealand is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which includes the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia. "We hope New Zealand will provide a level-playing field for Chinese enterprises' operation there and do something conducive for mutual trust and co-operation".

For its part, Huawei sought to defuse the controversy by saying it would only bid to put gear on 5G cellsites (the RAN or Radio Area Network), not the "core" or brains of a 5G network.

The concerns are elevated for 5G networks because of peculiarities in 5G technology.

Little said each decision regarding telecom technology was made separately under telecom and security legislation. The reason for not allowing Huawei equipment to be used in the country is a security risk.

2Degrees chief of corporate affairs Mathew Bolland said that it was seeking clarity from the GCSB on how the decision would affect its own planned 5G network.

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