Huawei seeks urgent meetings to clarify NZ 5G rejection

Yolanda Curtis
November 29, 2018

The request came from Spark New Zealand Ltd., a telecoms provider, that wanted to implement 5G equipment manufactured by Chinese giant Huawei.

Australia also raised objections to the use of Huawei equipment for its new 5G mobile network infrastructure. In March, Spark and Huawei showcased a 5G test site across the street from the Parliament, in a publicity move that was attended by then Broadcasting Minister Clare Curran.

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

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

New Zealand's previous conservative government had a close relationship with China.

Spark is disappointed by the GCSB's decision to block the company from working with a Chinese communications company over security concerns.

New Zealand tech commentator Paul Brislen told The Register: "Five Eyes versus hard dollars seems to be the fight going on at the moment" as the country is pulled in one direction by China, a major trading partner, and in the other by the "old club" of the Five Eyes nations (Australia, the USA, Canada and the UK). The companies compete for customers over their own network of cell towers, using radio spectrum that is licensed from the government.

"Under TICSA [The Telecommunications Interception Capability & Security Act], this means Spark can not implement or give effect to its proposal to use Huawei RAN equipment in its planned 5G network".

"This means Spark can not implement or give effect to its proposal to use Huawei RAN equipment in its planned 5G network". Spark said it would review the reasons behind the rejection before taking further action.

Carriers are concerned that a Huawei ban would leave only Ericsson and Nokia able to bid into 5G rollouts, which would make the builds more expensive.

"Speaking to The Malta Independent at the time, a spokesperson for Parliamentary Secretary Silvio Schembri, who oversaw the signing of the MoU, said that "[they] can not comment on other countries' approach to Huawei". Along with the US, Australia, and some other countries, now New Zealand has also joined the club. It was, at first, apparently backed up by its minister, Andrew Little, who said a Huawei implementation would have exposed Spark's network to the risk of "intervention in an unauthorised way".

As part of an "extraordinary outreach campaign", U.S. officials have reportedly reached out to European and Asian countries where Huawei equipment is already in use, warning them about the "national security risks" posed by the Chinese firm. Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported the U.S. government was trying to persuade companies in allied countries to avoid Huawei. "It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information".

The GCSB said it had identified "a significant network security risk" without naming Huawei.

A Huawei spokesman described the situation as an ongoing process. "Huawei is trusted by governments and customers in 170 countries worldwide and poses no greater cyber security risk than any ICT vendor, sharing as we do common global supply chains and production capabilities".

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