Canada To Join Five Eyes 5G Ban On Huawei/ZTE

Making it official. Canada is to turn its unofficial ban on 5G kit from Huawei and ZTE into an official national security stance

Canada is to require local mobile operators to remove 5G equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies and ZTE by 2024.

The Canadian government had ‘unofficially’ excluded Huawei and ZTE from its 5G networks since August 2020 by delaying its decision on the matter long enough to force local operators to exclude the Chinese equipment and use alternatives from rivals.

This was despite China warning Canada in 2019 of ‘repercussions’ if it decided to ban the use of 5G equipment from Huawei on national security grounds.

Image credit: Huawei

Canada ban

But now Canada is to make the de facto ban official government policy, making it the final member of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence sharing group to exclude Huawei from 5G networks.

“We intend to exclude Huawei and ZTE from our 5G networks,” Canada’s Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters in Ottawa. “Providers who already have this equipment installed will be required to cease its use and remove it under the plans we’re announcing today.”

Champagne added that operators will be required to remove their 5G gear by June, 2024, and they would not be reimbursed.

Mobile operators using 4G equipment from Huawei and ZTE, must remove that older kit by the end of 2027.

The 5G ban has been a long time coming, after Canada first announced it would review the possible threats to national security in adopting Huawei equipment back in September 2018.

There has been years of tension between the two countries, not helped by Canada’s arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou (on US sanction busting charges), and China’s arrest of former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor (arrested for ‘spying’), shortly after Meng’s detention.

Canadian Robert Lloyd Schellenberg, who has been in a Chinese prison since 2014, remains sentenced to death for drug smuggling.

The Chinese Supreme People’s Court yet to decide whether the execution will take place.

China response

China quickly responded to Canada’s 5G ban on Huawei and ZTE.

“We will take all necessary measures to safeguard the legitimate interests of Chinese firms,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin was quoted as telling reporters in Beijing on Friday.

A spokesperson for China’s embassy in Canada reportedly said the alleged security concerns were a “pretext for political manipulation” and accused Canada of working with the United States to suppress Chinese companies.

Alykhan Velshi, VP of corporate affairs for Huawei in Canada, said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp that the company is still waiting to hear “what sort of national security threats they think Huawei poses,” Reuters reported.

Velshi said that Huawei still has 1,500 employees in Canada, mostly in research and development, and sold products like mobile phones, and would continue to do so.

ZTE did not immediately responded to requests for comment.

In 2020, Bell Canada and rival Telus – two of the biggest wireless providers – opted to utilise Sweden’s Ericsson and Finland’s Nokia to build fifth-generation (5G) telecoms networks, ditching Huawei for the project despite using Huawei 4G gear.

In addition to the ban, Reuters reported Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino as saying that Canada would draft new legislation to protect critical financial, telecommunications, energy and transport infrastructure from cyber threats.

Five Eyes ban

Canada is the last ‘Five Eyes’ member to ban 5G equipment from these companies.

It comes after a long campaign by the United States to pressure its allies to ban Huawei 5G equipment, which included a warning about future intelligence sharing.

In 2019 then US secretary of state Mike Pompeo publicly warned that the US “may not be able to operate in certain environments if there is Huawei technology adjacent to that”.

Australia had already banned the use of Huawei telecom equipment as far back as 2012, and in 2018 that country included Huawei’s 5G equipment in that ban.

New Zealand also rejected Huawei 5G kit in that same year.

The UK took much longer to reach a complete ban, partly because Huawei was already well entrenched, having supplied gear to UK mobile phone companies for two decades.

However Prime Minister Boris Johnson in mid July 2020 ordered all Huawei equipment to be purged completely from Britain’s 5G network by 2027.