Huawei banned from Australian govt's NBN

UPDATED: ICT Minister Amy Adams comments. Chinese telco equipment manufacturer has been asked not to participate in tender for the Australian National Broadband Network

The Australian government has banned Chinese telecommunications equipment manufacturer Huawei from tending bids for its multi-billion dollar National Broadband Network (NBN) project, saying it risks the integrity of the network.

Australian media are reporting the ban is due to concerns over cyber attacks originating in China, and Huawei’s CEO’s alleged links to the Chinese People's Liberation Army.

"As a strategic and significant government investment, we have a responsibility to do our utmost to protect [the NBN's] integrity and that of the information carried on it," a spokeswoman for Australia's Attorney General, Nicola Roxon, told the Australian Financial Review.

"This is consistent with the government's practice for ensuring the security and resilience of Australia's critical infrastructure more broadly."

Earlier this month, top executives from Huawei’s headquarters came to New Zealand to assess potential business opportunities in the country.

UPDATE: A spokesperson for Huawei New Zealand says the decision in Australia will have no affect on its role in supplying UFB components in New Zealand.

"The decision in Australia has no relevance to us. We're the vendor for around a third of the UFB rollout," says Mark Champion, public affairs manager at Huawei New Zealand.

“We’ve reached a point where they [wholesale providers] are comfortable with the contracts and aspects around this.”

In 2007, Huawei won the tender for Vodafone’s fixed line broadband network, and the following year began working with 2degrees to build and launch its cellular network.

Huawei also supplies fibre infrastructure products to two Local Fibre Companies rolling out the government-backed Ultra Fast Broadband network - Ultra Fast Broadband Ltd, and Enable.

ICT Minister, Amy Adams, refused to comment on Huawei specifically, but says network security is taken seriously by her ministry.

“The Government will work with all suppliers and operators to address any security concerns that may be identified, and is committed to working with operators and suppliers to protect the integrity and confidentiality of the UFB and RBI network,” says Adams.

Computerworld has approached Huawei's New Zealand partners Chorus, Enable, and Ultra Fast Broadband Ltd for comment.

UPDATE: at 1:00pm

Enable, Crown Fibre’s partner for the UFB rollout in Christchurch, says it consulted with the government before entering into a partnership with Huawei to purchase network equipment including fibre ducting, fibre optic cables, and open access layer 2 network solutions.

“We consulted New Zealand government security agencies through the selection process and have complied with agency requirements, ”says Malcom Campbell , general manager of sales.

“We have confidence in Huawei as our partner on the basis of its proven reputation as one of the world’s biggest providers of telecommunication infrastructure solutions,” he says.

UPDATE: at 3:30pm

Chorus says it has consulted with government agencies, and is not worried that Huawei poses a security threat to its UFB roll out.

“We work closely with the MED [Ministry of Economic Development] on cyber security policy in addition to our own rigourous standards,” says a spokesperson for Chorus.

“Chorus will only work with suppliers and operators that can meet our rigorous network security requirements.”

Chorus is reviewing options for its layer 2 infrastructure and could see that technology supplied by Huawei in the future.

Last year the company signed a deal with Huawei to purchase coarse wavelength division multiplexing (CWDM) equipment which is used in the rural broadband initiative (RBI).

Ultra Fast Broadband Ltd has refused to comment.

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