Tech giant Huawei banned from New Zealand’s 5G network over ‘significant’ security risks
- The move follows reports that the United States is urging allies to exclude the Chinese telecom from networks
New Zealand’s largest telecoms carrier Spark said on Wednesday that the country’s intelligence agency had barred it from using equipment provided by China’s Huawei Technologies in its 5G network as it posed “significant national security risks”.
The move, reportedly the first by the New Zealand government against the Chinese company over a super-fast mobile network roll-out planned in the Pacific island nation, follows reports that the United States is urging its allies to exclude the Chinese telecoms giant from all 5G roll-outs over cybersecurity fears.
Australia blocked the company from being involved in its own 5G network upgrade for the same reason.
Spark said in a statement that it was legally obliged to tell New Zealand’s intelligence agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) about its 5G plans.
It said GCSB chief Andrew Hampton had raised concerns about the use of Huawei’s Radio Access Network in the new network and declined the proposed roll-out.
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“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.
The firm called the decision “disappointing” and said it would decide its next action after examining the detailed reasoning behind Hampton’s conclusion. It still expects to complete its 5G network by July 2020.
Hampton confirmed Spark’s announcement in a brief statement.
“The GCSB, under its (legislative) responsibilities, has recently undertaken an assessment of a notification from Spark. I have informed Spark that a significant network security risk was identified,” he said.
GCSB Minister Andrew Little said the risks identified by the agency relate to “intervention in an unauthorised way”, without giving any details of what those risks were, citing “classified information.” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had been briefed about the decision, he said.
Huawei – one of the world’s largest telecommunications equipment and services providers – has been under scrutiny in several countries recently over its alleged close links to Beijing authorities.
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China has long disputed accusations of security risks and links to the Chinese state intelligence services.
New Zealand is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which also includes the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia. Although China is one of its main trading partners, Wellington has become increasingly concerned about Beijing’s influence in the Pacific recently.
In response, New Zealand has boosted its Pacific aid programme to reinforce its presence in a region it considers its own sphere of influence.
Additional reporting by agencies