New Zealand Rejects Huawei 5G Kit, Citing Security Risks

New Zealand’s intelligence agency has rejected an attempt by a local mobile operator to use 5G equipment from Huawei Technologies for its 5G network.

It rejected the request by Spark New Zealand Ltd, citing concerns about national security, amid a warning there is an alleged “significant network security risk” associated with the equipment.

This is the latest setback for the world’s biggest telecom gear maker, and comes after the US government asked its allies last week not to use equipment from Huawei.

National security

According to Reuters, this is the first request to New Zealand’s intelligence agency from the telecoms industry, looking to use 5G equipment provided by China’s Huawei.

Spark New Zealand Ltd said on Wednesday it would review the reasoning before considering any further steps.

And it seems that New Zealand authorities have some real concerns about the Chinese equipment.

It should be remembered that New Zealand is part of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing network that consists of the USA, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

“I have informed Spark that a significant network security risk was identified,” Government Communications Security Bureau Director-General Andrew Hampton was reported as saying separately on Wednesday.

Meanwhile Intelligence services minister Andrew Little told Reuters that Spark could work with the agency to mitigate risk.

Little reportedly declined to specify the concerns, citing classified information.

No risk

Huawei reportedly said in a statement that it will “actively address any concerns and work together to find a way forward”, adding it has signed more than 20 5G contracts with carriers worldwide.

It continues to reject Western suggestions that the Chinese government is involved in 5G mobile and other communications networks, and says Beijing has no influence over it.

And in a sign that this hostile approach is touching a nerve, China’s Foreign Ministry has got involved.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang expressed “serious concern”, and said China-New Zealand business ties were mutually beneficial and win-win, according to Reuters.

“We hope the New Zealand government provides a fair competition environment for Chinese companies operating in New Zealand, and does more to benefit bilateral mutual trust and cooperation,” he told a daily news briefing.

And it should be noted that Huawei equipment has been deployed in New Zealand’s 4G network, but NZ’s Little said each decision regarding telecom technology was made separately under telecom and security legislation.

“The difference between 5G networks and conventional 4G and 3G networks is the configuration of the technology,” Little reportedly said. “With 5G technology, every component of the 5G network means every part of the network can be accessed.”

Western concerns

New Zealand’s decision is the latest development as Western nations close down on the use of Huawei equipment.

Senior officials in Germany recently urged the German government to ban the use of Chinese equipment, like that from Huawei, in their 5G networks.

Australia meanwhile has banned the use Huawei technology altogether.

The British government also earlier this month wrote to telcos, warning them against using equipment makers such as Huawei when rolling out 5G networks, because of an ongoing security review of those Chinese firms.

Canada is thought to have refused to allow Huawei to be involved with the construction of a government communications network.

The US meanwhile has already largely barred Huawei from supplying to the government, and has placed restrictions on the sale of smartphones made by Huawei and other Chinese manufacturers.

In March, the US also blocked Broadcom’s planned hostile acquisition of Qualcomm, saying that the deal could only benefit 5G research plans by Chinese companies such as Huawei.

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Tom Jowitt @TJowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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