The ban arrives amidst tighter restrictions on the Chinese telecoms equipment giants in Australia and elsewhere
Chinese telecoms equipment giant Huawei said it and fellow communications firm ZTE have both been banned from providing technology for Australia’s next-generation wireless networks.
The Australian government’s move comes amidst a tightening of its national security laws with regard to communications networks and increased restrictions on Huawei.
Huawei said the decision was “extremely disappointing”, while the Chinese government suggested that the spying concerns that supposedly informed the Australian government’s measure were a cover for trade protectionism.
“We have been informed by the government that Huawei and ZTE have been banned from providing 5G technology to Australia,” Huawei said in a statement.
“This is an extremely disappointing result for consumers. Huawei is a world leader in 5G, and has safely and securely delivered wireless technology in Australia for close to 15 years.”
China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Luk Kang, accused Australia of using “various excuses to artificially erect barriers”.
The ministry called on Australia to “abandon ideological prejudices and provide a fair competitive environment for Chinese companies”.
Ironically, China was long accused of thwarting free trade in the name of ideology.
In June the Australian government convinced the Solomon Islands to drop a contract with Huawei to build a subsea cable linking it with Australia, and took up the deal itself.
In a Thursday statement by Australia’s communications and acting home affairs ministers, the country’s government said next-generation networks would increase security risks because “sensitive functions” would “move outside of the highly protected core environment”.
“The involvement of vendors who are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflict with Australian law, may risk failure by the carrier to adequately protect a 5G network from unauthorised access or interference,” the ministers stated, without naming specific companies.
Huawei and ZTE face increasing restrictions elsewhere, including the US and the UK, amidst growing international tensions.
The US has placed restrictions on both companies since 2012, when a report by lawmakers raised national security concerns about them.
Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms equipment vendor and the second-largest smartphone maker, ahead of Apple and after Samsung, has yet to win a carrier distribution deal in the US, in spite of rumours it would finally do so early this year.
In the UK, a committee set up to review Huawei’s British activities warned in July that it could provide “only limited assurance” that the company’s telecoms gear posed no threat to national security.
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has said the increased use of ZTE equipment and services would pose a security risk, due to the already extensive use of Huawei gear and the difficulty of monitoring equipment from both firms.