Huawei pushes 5G cybersecurity with Australian government

Huawei Australia has again said it is open and transparent about cybersecurity concerns, pushing for discussions with the federal government to take part in the 5G build-out.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

Chinese networking giant Huawei has published a letter it is sending to Australian members of Parliament this week, claiming recent comments made about national security concerns are "ill informed and not based on facts".

Pointing out that Huawei is now Australia's largest wireless technology provider, the letter from Huawei Australia's board says half of all people already rely on Huawei for their daily communications usage across the nation.

"Our telecommunications equipment connects millions of Australian businesses and consumers every day on the Vodafone, Optus, and TPG mobile networks," it says.

"As focus turns to investment in the next generation of telecom technologies in Australia, cybersecurity is a key consideration for Australian policymakers ... with our 5G investments in the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand, the respective governments have taken up our offers for evaluation of our technology to ensure it abides by its cybersecurity protocols.

"We have an open invitation for Australian officials and security agencies to meet with our world-leading research and development teams to better understand our technology."

The letter points out that Huawei has been incorporated within the national security frameworks of Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Canada, New Zealand, and Italy.

Huawei also published a 40-page booklet on its business in Australia, including companies it has worked with on networking solutions -- such as NSW Ambulance, South East Water, Southern Cross University, University of Tasmania, Gold Coast Suns, Canberra Raiders, oil and gas producer Santos, Vodafone, and on Optus' 4.5G network.

Huawei also included an information sheet on its 5G work globally, including its trials with Bell, Telus, NTT DoCoMo, SoftBank, LG U+, China Mobile, China Unicom, China Telecom, Italy VDF, Italy TI, EE, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, and Vodafone.

Last week, Australia's Shadow Minister for Defence Richard Marles had approved a possible Huawei ban from 5G networks, citing the 2012 ban imposed on the company by the then-Labor government denying Huawei the ability to take part in the National Broadband Network (NBN).

"Given that it replicates a decision that was made under the Labor government, the answer was yes," Marles said.

"Certainly when we were in government that's what we did, and a call of that kind was previously made in relation to Huawei and national security clearly matters. This is a fundamental piece of infrastructure. If we were in government we'd be listening to those national security agencies to get their advice on this."

His comments followed the government's decision to use AU$200 million in foreign aid funding rather than an offer from Huawei to build a high-speed subsea cable between Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands.

Earlier this month, Huawei had warned that being banned from providing 5G equipment to Australia's telcos would threaten the nation's ability to stay "ahead of the game" in its mobile networks due to restricting competition.

"Australians are now enjoying some of the best 4G broadband in the world because of the competition and because players like Huawei," Huawei Australia chair John Lord said.

"There's only about two other players in the Australian market."

According to Lord, Huawei is currently commissioning a paper on how much more expensive 5G network build-outs would be if Huawei is barred from taking part, adding that the company is talking to the Australian government "regularly".

"This is a very critical point, but from the experience of past projects ... if Huawei does not participate, there'll only be one provider, because Huawei is the only company globally that goes from end to end in the ICT infrastructure," he argued.

"Our competitors are expert in certain areas, and they compete against us, but not across the whole spectrum."

Lord denied any national security concerns based on Chinese involvement in the running of its telco equipment in Australia.

Alleged US government documents leaked in January said the Trump Administration is considering setting standards for a nationwide 5G mobile network to prevent Chinese dominance in the industry.

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