Huawei hits back after calls for ban from Australian 5G infrastructure

Huawei has taken umbrage at claims it has links to the Chinese government and should be banned from Australian 5G infrastructure.

Last week, Telecoms reported Australian Labor MP Michael Danby called on PM Malcolm Turnbull to ban Chinese telecoms companies from 5G infrastructure. Danby said they are ‘effectively controlled by Beijing’ and named Huawei and ZTE specifically.

John Lord, Chairman of Huawei Australia, told Radio National's Breakfast program:

“Huawei is owned by employees. We have 170,000 employees in the world but it's only owned by 80,000 because we haven't got enough shares.

There is no ownership by the Government whatsoever — we would term our form of ownership a cooperative in Western societies."

Turnbull, during his tenure as communications minister, previously barred Huawei from bidding for the National Broadband Network (NBN).

With its speed and reliability improvements, 5G is being discussed for use in more critical infrastructure than its predecessors. This is why, despite Huawei’s equipment providing around 55 percent of Australia’s 4G infrastructure, there’s renewed fear of its potential influence.

Lord iterates that, in whatever country Huawei operates, it complies with that nation’s laws. Software updates, which may feasibly contain backdoors, are not solely created in China but in 14 R&D centres around the world — including Italy, the UK, and Russia. In fact, only half are in China.

When it comes to maintenance, Huawei uses primarily employees from the nation — or sub-contractors — claims Lord. “We don't have Chinese nationals doing the maintenance on the equipment we provide to the major telcos, and they are the operators, not us."

If Huawei was found to be operating illegitimately, the company would not be trusted anywhere in the world. “If we do one thing wrong, our business is dead,” says Lord.

Here in the UK, Huawei gained trust by agreeing to have its equipment checked by national spy agency GCHQ.

On the UK arrangement, Lord comments:

“That was the way to enter the market and be as open as possible, and that's what we are offering around the world.

We believe that all telcos should be open, and equipment should be checked.

We build equipment on the supposition that nations or companies or rogues will try and crack your equipment.”

Many are concerned about Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei’s links to the military. Lord says Zhengfei served in the same manner as ‘all young men his age’ and was ‘pensioned off’ when the military reduced its size. He says the company does not make any military equipment.

Lord speaks of the politicians, academics, and journalists that have been taken to China to see Huawei's facilities.

Telecoms has also taken a trip over to Huawei’s facilities in China. While the trip was guided and there were naturally some areas off-limits to prevent leaks — particularly in the smartphone manufacturing and testing areas — there were no obvious red flags and it was conducted much as you’d expect anywhere else.

Huawei’s equipment is impressive and often groundbreaking. Many believe some of it is around a year ahead of competitors in terms of development. An outright ban could put a nation at a disadvantage on the global stage when it comes to its 5G rollout.

One thing is for sure, a ban would have a major impact on Huawei’s business and likely cost many jobs. “This is still the main part of our business in Australia: mobile broadband."

Do you think Huawei should be barred from 5G infrastructure? Let us know in the comments. in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam and explore the future of enterprise technology.

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15 Jun 2018, 6:13 a.m.

The Australian government is extremely naive. As of today, Huawei supply 4G infrastructure to both Optus and Vodafone. So in other words if you have a mobile phone contract with either of these Telcos, you are using Huawei technology on the back end. I wonder how many politicians in Australia have a mobile phone contract with either Optus or Vodafone? I wonder who Malcolm Turnbulls mobile phone contract is with?

Optus has 9.4 million customers and Vodafone Australia has 5.2 million customers in Australia so go figure....

Telstra leverage Ericcson technology for their Telco infrastructure in Australia.