Canada bans Huawei and ZTE from 5G networks, citing national security risks

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The Canadian government has joined many of its allies and banned the use of Huawei and ZTE tech in its 5G networks, as part of a new telecommunications security framework.

“The Government is committed to maximizing the social and economic benefits of 5G and access to telecommunications services writ large, but not at the expense of security,” stated the Government of Canada.

Companies using equipment or managed services from the two Chinese companies have been until 28 June 2024 to stop operating or remove the equipment.

Canada has already excluded the two Chinese companies from “sensitive areas” of Canadian 3G, 4G and LTE networks. But by the end of 2027, all Telecom companies must remove or terminate any ZTE or Huawei existing 4G equipment and managed services. By September 1, 2022, companies will have to stop buying 4G and 5G equipment from the two Chinese companies.

Canada said in the future it intends to impose restrictions on Gigabit Passive Optical Network (GPON) equipment used in fibre-optic networks and its security review program will “expand to consider risks from all key suppliers.”

The decision to ban Huawei and ZTE came after extensive examination of 5G wireless technology and its implementation.

“In 5G systems, sensitive functions will become increasingly decentralized and virtualized in order to reduce latency, and the number of devices they will connect will also grow exponentially,” said the government.

It also said it had serious concerns about suppliers who “could be compelled to comply with extrajudicial directions from foreign governments in ways that would conflict with Canadian laws or would be detrimental to Canadian interests.”

The government cited its allies as having similar concerns. Canada is a member of the Five Eyes network alongside the United States, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. All four other nations have banned the equipment already.

Huawei has long insisted that its products are secure, that it will observe the laws of nations in which it does business, and dismised concerns about Beijing's ability to influence the company.

Some critics of the move say it is too little too late, like Conservative Party MP Micheal Chong who tweeted “It shouldn't have taken more than 3 years for the Trudeau government to ban Huawei. David Vigneault, director of CSIS, publicly warned the government about the threat from Huawei in early December 2018.”

Others have said the move puts an undue burden on telecom companies as they must pay to replace existing equipment.

But Canada has been in a tricky diplomatic place with the Chinese government since it arrested and detained Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on a U.S. extradition warrant.

China is believed to have held Canadian citizens Micheal Spavor and Micheal Kovrig on charges of endangering state security as retaliation. Meng, Kovrig and Spavor were all released from custody on September 24, 2021.

China tech expert and author of books including US-China Tech War and Parallel Metaverses Nina Xiang told The Reg Huawei "probably expected" the ban.

“Huawei is expanding into other fields and has pared back ambition for their 5G. The western alliance pared that back for them.”

Xiang said Huawei will still enjoy strong demand from China’s domestic 5G networks as they continue to diversify their businesses.

“I think Huawei has some things that they had made them successful in the past and those things are still there and can be used for success in a different sector,” said Xiang, citing the smart home as a major and accessible target market for the company, becuase it uses “more mature” semiconductors build on 28nm or 45nm processes that Chinese chipmakers can easily produce.

“Cars is another field they are getting into and could have success. I am optimistic in their ability to succeed.” ®

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