Australia bans Huawei, ZTE from joining 5G network rollout

By @chelean on
Huawei
FILE PHOTO - A man walks past a logo during the presentation the Huawei's new smartphone, the Ascend P7, launched by China's Huawei Technologies in Paris, May 7, 2014. Reuters/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

The Australian Federal Government has banned Huawei and ZTE from taking part in the 5G mobile infrastructure rollout. In a joint media statement on Thursday, Communications and the Arts Minister Mitch Fifield and Home Affairs Acting Minister Scott Morrison cited “national security risks” in their decision.

The ministers did not mention Huawei or ZTE directly but said that they excluded “the vendors who are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government that conflict with Australian law.” They said the involvement of these vendors may risk the 5G network from unauthorised access or interference.

“This applies equally to all carriers, consistent with government’s long-standing commitment to a level playing field in the sector,” the statement reads.

As they explained, the traditional mobile networks have clear functional divisions between the core network, which is where the more sensitive functions occur, and the edge network, which consists of radios and other equipment used to connect customers to the core network. In 5G network, though, the sensitive functions performed in the core will gradually move closer to the edge of the network, and the distinction between the core and the edge will disappear over time.

“The shift introduces new challenges for carriers trying to maintain their customers’ security, as sensitive functions move outside of the highly protected core environment. This new architect provides a way to circumvent traditional security controls by exploiting equipment in the edge of the network ­—  exploitation which may affect overall network integrity and availability, as well as the confidentiality of customer data. A long history of cyber incidents shows cyber actors target Australia and Australians.

“Government has found no combination of technical security controls that sufficiently mitigate the risks.”

Neither Chinese telcos Huawei nor ZTE has been mentioned in the media release. However, it appears that they have already been informed of their exclusion. Huawei Australia tweeted it was an “extremely disappointing” news.

“We have been informed by the Govt that Huawei & ZTE have been banned from providing 5G technology to Australia. This is a [sic] extremely disappointing result for consumers. Huawei is a world leader in 5G. Has safely & securely delivered wireless technology in Aust for close to 15 yrs,” the company tweeted.

Huawei previously warned that if it was excluded in the 5G network, the cost for Australian consumers would spike. Reports that Australia would leave out the Chinese company from 5G surfaced in June, and Huawei was quick to warn that there would be expensive consequences for consumers if it was indeed excluded.

The company was also excluded from getting involved in the National Broadband Network in 2012 again due to security concerns.